Washington is exploiting mounting tensions between Beijing and other governments in the region over territorial claims to islands and sea lanes. The latest involve China, Japan and South Korea.
The U.S. plans to deploy a powerful early-warning radar, known as an X-band, on a southern Japanese island, the Wall Street Journal reported Aug. 23. This would build on a 2006 radar installation on a northern Japanese island. The Barack Obama administration is also considering a third site in the Philippines. These moves would create a radar arc that could track any missile launched from North Korea and much of China.
“The U.S. is ‘laying the foundations’ for a regionwide missile defense system that would combine U.S. ballistic missile defenses with those of regional powers, particularly Japan, South Korea and Australia,” Steven Hildreth, of the Congressional Research Service, told the Journal.
U.S. Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Amos visited these countries and the Philippines in early August.
His visit coincided with war games July 27 to Aug. 17 run out of an Australian military base in Darwin, where a detachment of 2,500 U.S. troops is being built up. The drill involved 2,200 troops and more than 90 aircraft from Australia, the U.S., Thailand, Singapore and Indonesia.
This is the first time the Indonesian air force has given other nations access to its front-line Sukhoi jet fighters, made in Russia.
A senior U.S. official has confirmed that the U.S. intends to deploy one of four Marine task forces earmarked for the region in Australia. The U.S. is also considering basing a U.S. aircraft carrier group and nuclear submarines at the HMAS Stirling base south of Perth.
In a move to upgrade Philippine military capacity, Washington has transferred two naval vessels to the Philippine navy. Surface attack aircraft, attack helicopters, long-range patrol aircraft and radar equipment purchases are already in the pipeline.
In a meeting Aug. 5 between Japanese Defense Minister Satoshi Morimoto and U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, agreement was reached on deploying unmanned drones to monitor Chinese activity in waters surrounding Diaoyu Islands—called Senkaku by Tokyo—in the East China Sea. The islands are controlled by Japan, but also claimed by China and Taiwan.
Territorial disputes sharpenCoinciding with the anniversary of Japan’s surrender in World War II, Chinese activists landed on the islands. Japanese authorities arrested 14 of them Aug 15. Within hours Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Fu Ying summoned Japan’s ambassador to China Uichiro Niwa and called her Japanese counterpart to protest the detention.
Dozens of people rallied outside the Japanese Embassy in Beijing and consulate in Hong Kong, demanding the activists’ release, chanting anti-Japanese slogans. On Aug. 17 Japanese authorities deported the activists.
Adding to Tokyo’s irritation, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak visited a set of islets in the Sea of Japan Aug. 10, also claimed by Japan, which called the visit “unacceptable” and recalled its ambassador from Seoul in protest.
On June 21, China’s state council approved the establishment of a new national prefecture headquartered in the Paracel Islands. Vietnam claims sovereignty over the islands, which China has controlled since a battle with Vietnam in 1974.
According to the Chinese news agency Xinhua, the new prefecture “administers over 200 islets” and “2 million square kilometers of water.” On July 22, China’s Central Military Commission announced that it would deploy a garrison of soldiers to guard the islands in the area.
The goal of the move “is to allow Beijing to ‘exercise sovereignty over all land features inside the South China Sea,’ including more than 40 islands,” Wu Shicun, president of a Chinese government-sponsored research institute, told the New York Times Aug. 11.
The State Department criticized China’s move, saying it would risk further inflaming tension.
The following day the Chinese government summoned the U.S. deputy chief of mission in Beijing, Robert Wang, to express “strong dissatisfaction and firm opposition” to the U.S. statement.
“We can completely shout to the U.S.: Shut up,” the overseas edition of the People’s Daily, the Chinese Communist Party paper, said Aug. 6.
U.S.-led military drills aimed at North Korea
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