Risk of armed Asian conflict on the rise, but trade links rule out war

By Han Xudong Source:Global Times Published: 2012-9-27 0:40:03

Island sovereignty and maritime interest disputes in the Asia-Pacific region have attracted an increasing amount of global attention recently.

With external powers ready to intervene, conflicts among the relevant parties have intensified and the unrest has gotten worse. If the trend cannot be curbed, armed conflicts are more likely.

With the US pivot to the Asia-Pacific region and the global economic focus moving toward the region, the region has gradually entered into a troubled period.

The US has set the region as the focus of its overseas military deployment and is taking advantage of the unrest in the region so as to adjust the power structure.

Moreover, the US has carried out military exercises with relevant countries to create unrest and instigated them to confront neighboring countries. For example, over the Huangyan Island dispute, the US backs the Philippines through holding joint military exercises on island defense, as it has done with Japan over the Diaoyu Islands dispute.

This is the usual tactic by the US to back relevant countries' confront actions with China.    

As the territorial disputes among relevant countries are closely related to core national interests, no involved parties will compromise easily.

Relevant countries usually use comprehensive national strength, especially military strength, as a lever to adjust their interests.

Take the dispute over the South Kuril Islands between Russia and Japan. Russia has increased its military presence on the islands and used military power to deal with Japanese provocations.

Similarly, South Korea has begun to deploy its forces on Dokdo Islands, where it has disputes with Japan.

At present, while China has repeatedly advocated a peaceful settlement of the Diaoyu Islands dispute, the nation has sufficient confidence and courage to face up to the challenges and safeguard its sovereignty and interests.

All those conflicts mentioned above have the potential to further deteriorate.

After all, international politics is the continuation and manifestation of domestic politics.

Since the beginning of this year, key players in hot issues of the Asia-Pacific region all have been confronted with the sensitivity of domestic power transition.

Russia had its presidential election in March. And South Korea, Japan, the US and China will soon see elections or leadership change.

At such a critical moment, attitudes on safeguarding the core interests of the nation had been used as a stake to gain support, as particularly seen in Japan.

Currently, the right-wing forces in Japan are promoting the campaigners to form a consistent approach over the Diaoyu Islands dispute, that is, to take an increasingly tough stance and policy.

Japan hasn't made a full reflection on its war crimes. The right-wing frequently blusters about the use of force to solve the territorial disputes. This adds to the uncertainty of the security situation in the Asia-Pacific region. 

But one certain thing is that a war is unlikely in the Asia-Pacific.

Even if the parties in a dispute had a collision of forces, it wouldn't develop into full-blown war.

The use of force is the highest means but the last resort to maintain core interests of nations.

The current situation is totally different from other periods in history. With global economic integration, the expanding of armed conflicts will be no good to any country involved.

Therefore, the relevant countries all hope the scale of conflicts could be restrained.

Besides, the US is not willing to see a regional war in the Asia-Pacific. A turbulent situation without war is in its best interests.

From this perspective, the Asia-Pacific region does face the potential danger of low intensity conflicts and operations. The possibility of an armed collision is on the rise, but the scale will be limited. 

The author is a professor at the PLA University of National Defense. opinion@globaltimes. com.cn

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