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Abe's visit shows cautious US stance

Source:Global Times Published: 2013-2-24 23:48:01

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's US visit prompted mixed views among media outlets in China, Japan and the US. Japanese media believed the visit was successful, as it "revived the US-Japan alliance" and was successful in terms of countering China. US media focused on issues concerning US interests like negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership. In China, the media said that Abe was rebuffed in his visit because US President Barack Obama made no mention of the Diaoyu Islands.

It's hard to say whether Abe's visit was a success or not. But this visit reflected the US ability to balance Sino-Japanese relations. Any US words on issues related to the two countries would factor heavily into their bilateral relations. Besides, given the change in the balance of power between China and Japan, cooperation with China has become more important to the US than the loyalty of Japan.

Abe's visit is also an opportunity for Obama to rethink Northeast Asian issues and the triangular relationship among Beijing, Tokyo and Washington in his second term. The way Obama treated Abe effectively stated that the Obama administration has no intention of significantly adjusting its East Asian policy, and containing China is not the priority for US strategic consideration in the region. The US is cautious and conservative in making use of Japan to fully confront China.

Besides Japan, countries like the Philippines and some China's domestic forces often misjudge the US' China strategy, thinking that containing China tops the US agenda. They believe that as long as their actions move in this direction, they will receive unconditional support from the US.

China has been able to shed its passive role in disputes with Japan because Beijing now has more leverage when dealing with the US. Large-scale trade and economic cooperation has made the China-US relationship closer. For Japan, being assertive and tough on the Diaoyu Islands dispute is the result of Japanese domestic politics kidnapping diplomacy. It is by no means is a realistic choice.

Japanese public opinion said that Abe's US visit was "successful," but this sounds more like a form of self-encouragement. China's concern over the visit is the result of uncertainties as to what extent it can influence US Asian policy.

China has no intention of escalating conflicts with Japan. Its strategy is to reciprocate Japan's aggression with countermeasures of the same scale. This would mean minor details of Japan's moves can be ignored. Meanwhile, Japan, when fully being aware of the consequence of China's response, will be wary of taking further actions over the Diaoyu dispute.

Due to Washington's pivot to Asia, Sino-US ties will be subject to more fluctuations caused by conflicts such as those between China and Japan. Sino-US relationship will also have an influence over regional tensions.

Japanese leaders including Abe have often expressed contradictory statements over Sino-Japanese relations, creating more negative sentiment in Japan toward China. Japan's influence in East Asia is decreasing, but China shouldn't go down with it.

Posted in: Editorial