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In message to China, U.S., Japan push 'rule of law'

Dec. 3, 2013 - 01:55PM   |  
Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force helicopters take off from the escort ship Ise in October.
Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force helicopters take off from the escort ship Ise in October. (Kazuhiro Nogi / AFP)
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WASHINGTON — The United States and Japan on Tuesday let Beijing know they aren’t backing down amid fresh tensions.

China has raised tensions with its neighbors and the U.S. in recent days after extending its air defense identification zone toward Japan to include a new vast swath of Pacific waters and islands. The U.S. last week even flew two B-52 bomber aircraft into the area.

China also in recent months has clashed with Japan and other Southeast Asian nations over control of islands and territory in the South China Sea, ruffling feathers among longtime rivals — and threatening to draw Washington into any conflicts that may arise.

Vice President Joseph Biden is in Asia on a diplomatic swing, and has been urging China to rescind the air defense zone and its neighbors to resist escalating the situation, while also reminding all parties of Washington’s commitment to its allies like Japan.

“This latest incident underscores the need for agreement between China and Japan to establish crisis management and confidence-building measures to lower tensions,” Biden said in Asia, according to wire reports.

To that end, the White House on Tuesday morning issued a fact sheet describing U.S.-Japanese cooperation. The final category was focused on “safety and security” on the high seas.

“Japan and the United States will coordinate their capacity building assistance on maritime safety and security towards Southeast Asian countries and work together, through various multilateral fora, to strengthen maritime order based on fundamental principles and the rule of law,” states the fact sheet.

The White House fact sheet’s mention of the “rule of law” appeared to be a swipe at China, which typically ignores international agreements in pursuit of its own whims in the region.

Muthiah Alagappa of the Center for Strategic and International Studies said the Asia-Pacific region could become the world’s core economic region.”

“Its growing economic importance, however, has not been matched by commensurate development in the political and strategic domains,” Alagappa wrote in a Monday white paper.

The analyst wrote that nations in the region likely will seek to prevent military conflicts via policies of deterrence, or “threatening retaliation that inflicts unacceptable cost.”

Alagappa wrote such a strategy just might work because “by preventing the outbreak of major war, effective deterrence can support both national security and minimalist peace.”

But military build-ups alone won’t ensure stability.

“Military modernization,” Alagappa wrote, “must be accompanied by transparency and be tempered by the considerations relating to effective deterrence and dispute resolution.”

The White House fact sheet also states Japan will support “in a substantive manner” a U.S.-proposed program called the Expanded ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asia Nations) Seafarer Training Initiative.

That program is designed “to improve counter-piracy training and education in the region,” according to a different 2012 White House fact sheet.

The White House also said Japan will “further contribute” to counter-piracy efforts off the coast of Somalia in the Gulf of Aden.

Notably, the fact sheet did not mention Washington’s support for a more-offensively capable Japanese military, which has been geared primarily toward defensive operations since World War II.

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