NEW OPPORTUNITY FOR JAPAN AS WASHINGTON TOUGHENS STANCE AGAINST CHINA
“From the mountain ranges of the Himalayas to the waters of Vietnam’s Exclusive Zone to the Senkaku Islands and beyond, Beijing has a pattern of instigating territorial disputes. The world shouldn’t allow this bullying to take place nor should it permit it to continue.”
So declared US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during a news conference on July 8, reflecting the resolve on the part of the US government to no longer tolerate China’s abuses across the wide expanse of the Eurasia continent and its waters.
The US has over the years adhered to its policy of neutrality as regards competing claims to territorial rights, land or sea. Fully aware that the Senkaku Islands are an integral part of Japanese territory, the US has refrained from openly stating that the Senkakus, claimed also by China, belong to Japan, maintaining that it is only interested in which of the two countries has the administrative rights over the unmanned islands. During the American Occupation of Japan (1945-52), US forces conducted military drills there.
But now, the US has reversed this policy. It was only natural that Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Mori swiftly welcomed Pompeo’s statement. Japan must join other members of the international community in formulating measures to cope with the new development.
In subsequent news conferences on July 13 and July 15, Pompeo reiterated America’s resolve to face up to China’s global offensive, saying:
“What’s important is the conversation we’ve had (with Beijing) has changed. And I think Chinese leadership understands (that).”
Pompeo emphasized that it is no longer acceptable for “China to engage in behavior that would be radically unreciprocal, enormously unfair to the American people.” Stating that America has begun to “turn (our policy) around,” the secretary observed: “There is still real work that needs to be done. But you can see in each of the policies that the administration has undertaken in the last two and a half years, (there has been) a marked reversal.”
In Pompeo’s view, there definitely have been some new changes, as exemplified by America’s response to the massive military exercises conducted by the PLA in the South China Sea, the East China Sea, and the Yellow Sea beginning July 1.
Immediately following the Chinese exercises, on July 4, the US Navy deployed a fleet of warships, including two aircraft carriers, to the South China Sea for a major maritime drill—America’s show of its commitment to not overlooking any provocative or unlawful behavior on the part of the PLA in the region.
We Japanese would be wise to realize how determined the US is to face up to China from the fact that, while Pompeo made the above remarks successively in news conferences on July 8, 13, and 15, several of his colleagues also made similar statements about the same time.
Comments were made by National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien on June 24, by FBI Director Christopher Wray on July 7, and by Attorney General William Barr on July 16.
The strong objections are also a warning top American officials are sounding against the spread of unscrupulous Chinese practices across the globe. Any nation that fails to condemn China’s position that the abuse of human rights in Hong Kong and Muslim Xinjiang are internal issues is in effect condoning China’s evil system. Pompeo and others are fully aware of this.
Take the South China Sea, which Beijing, citing a “long history,” alleges has belonged to China for 2,000 years. Pompeo last week put the US in line with the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, which on July 12, 2016 dismissed China’s expansive claims in the South China Sea, calling it the “final verdict” that China must honor. Pompeo added that China’s claims, including the “nine-dashed line,” are “completely unlawful.” Noting that China is prone to replacing “international law with ‘might is right,’” Pompeo declared to which nations specific South China Sea shoals and islands in dispute belong:
Scarborough Reef, the Spratly Islands, and Second Thomas Shoal all belong to the Philippines. The Vanguard Bank in the Spratly Islands belongs to Vietnam, the Luconia Shoal to Malaysia, and the Natuna Islands to Indonesia. Brunei is entitled to its own Exclusive Economic Zone.
China claims James Shoal—an entirely submerged piece of seabed 50 miles from the coast of Borneo—as its “southernmost territory” but Pompeo asserted it has “no lawful territorial or maritime claim” to it, declaring: “America stands with our Southeast Asian allies and partners in protecting their sovereign rights to offshore resources, consistent with their rights and obligations under international law.”
Coming from a US secretary of state, this is a stunningly powerful statement. What a significant change in Washington’s stance it is vis-à-vis these controversial territorial disputes. We Japanese should not overlook the importance of Pompeo’s remarks and the positive implications they have for Japan. We must respond by strengthening our national defense capabilities.
We should also be aware of the harsh views on China expressed by Attorney General Barr on July 16. He said:
“The belief by foreign companies that large financial investments, the sharing of expertise and significant technology transfers would lead to an ever opening China market is being replaced by boardroom banter that win-win in China means China wins twice.”
Barr hit the nail on the head. But why would China win twice? Because its plans are to first expand its underhanded practices to the US and then, eventually, to take over the country.
Barr cited Hollywood as an example of American business kowtowing to China. Hollywood first received Chinese investment, followed by large numbers of Chinese who now work in all fields of American movie-making, including technology. Chinese have been allowed virtually free access to US technology and know-how, many returning to China to work in the Chinese movie industry after absorbing Hollywood’s movie-making expertise. Bar observed: “The PRC may be less interested in cooperating with Hollywood than co-opting Hollywood—and eventually replacing it with its own homegrown productions.” Barr is deeply chagrined to see Hollywood—known for championing freedom and challenging authoritarianism—be undermined by China in this way.
In the meantime, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on July 14 ordered Huawei equipment to be completely purged from Britain’s 5G networks by 2027. Beijing swiftly expressed displeasure and its ambassador to London, Liu Xiaoming, granted an on-line interview to The Times two days later. Liu came up with a series of predictable Chinese lies, such as it is a peace-loving nation and that it maintains friendly relations with all nations around the world. He said China had intended to back Britain financially as it felt it would be difficult for Britain to go it alone. Now that Britain has decided to purge Huawei, however, Liu said that “all things have changed” and there will be no more Chinese investment in Britain—a high-handed statement from someone well-versed in Britain’s financial shortcomings.
Beijing also let its displeasure with London be known by announcing on July 19 that Bytedance, which operates the popular social media platform TikTok, would forego plans to construct a massive global headquarters in London.
Now is the time for Japan to move strategically forward, clearly recognizing where it stands in terms of Britain’s decision to rid its 5G networks of Huawei equipment and take advantage of the evolving situation. The British government is turning to Japan for cooperation, with NEC and Fujitsu having been mentioned as among possible suppliers replacing Huawei. In point of fact, Pompei referred to NEC on July 8 as among the world’s “clean” companies with a high standard of 5G technology.
5G technology and the Senkakus aren’t the only threats from China Japan is faced with. Minami-Tori-shima, a coral atoll located 1,150 miles southeast of Tokyo, is also now in danger as China closes in on this easternmost Japanese territory. Japan must stand by the US in its policy toward the South and East China Seas and forge ahead with cooperation accompanied by action. That, I believe, is the right path for us to follow in protecting our national interests.
(Translated from “Renaissance Japan” column #911 in the July 30, 2020 issue of The