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  • Pushing Back on China Works

    This week’s encouraging news—that the U.S. affirmed its security commitment to Japan under the 1960 bilateral defense treaty—sends exactly the right signal to China: that the U.S. will push back on Beijing’s increasing assertiveness in the region. Most notably, Washington went far beyond long-standing ambiguous diplomatic statements to publicly state for the first time that the Senkakus (which the Chinese call the Diaoyutai islands) were specifically protected under the defense accord.

    China claims sovereignty over the Senkaku Islands, but the Japanese have administered them since the United States ceded control of them to Japan in 1972. China’s claim is viewed by some as a front for exerting its control over any possible resources in the islands’ waters (including fishing grounds and potential hydrocarbon deposits).

    China’s territorial assertiveness has been on full display lately. After Japan detained a Chinese fisherman for venturing in the islands’ waters, Beijing demanded his unconditional release or retaliation that would cause serious damage to their relationship, and it has suspended its rare earth metal exports to Japan. Its premier, Wen Jibao, even went so far as to snub Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Khan at a meeting at the United Nations.

    Meanwhile, China has also argued that the United States and the Republic of Korea should not conduct military exercises in the Yellow Sea, although South Korea borders that body of water, and it is recognized by all nations as international waters.

    In the face of such expansive claims, pushing back on China is clearly the right approach, as Heritage Foundation’s Vice President for Foreign and Defense Policy Studies, Kim Holmes explains. A more conciliatory American approach has not only encouraged China to become more belligerent, but it has also worried our friends and allies about how seriously we take our security commitments.

    Yet all is still not well. The Obama Administration just muddied the message by signaling it might loosen restrictions imposed on U.S. arms sales to China after the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre so as to help get clean up equipment to oil spills. Beijing quickly welcomed this news, saying it hopes the U.S. will “continue to take measures to relax high-tech export restrictions to China.” This, on the eve of Defense Secretary Gates’ military-to-military visit to China but just after Beijing put the wife of Chinese Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo under house arrest.

    China’s intentions are no clearer than the message coming from Washington. Until China’s actions change, it is far too early to let up on China.

    Lee Lukoff is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at the Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please visit: http://www.heritage.org/about/departments/ylp.cfm

    Posted in International [slideshow_deploy]

    3 Responses to Pushing Back on China Works

    1. haha says:

      As a veteran watcher of the Diaoyutai/Senkaku disputes for the last 12 years, I can say with complete confidence that the author is bias and does not know what is going on in the Diaoyutai/Senaku disputes.

      The islands were governed by Qing dynasty China until Japan stole them away from China in the First Sino-Japanese war. Chinese governance of the island predates Japan's claims of discovering them in 1885, which was erroneous since they claim they discovered the islands "uninhabited" without any presence of "Chinese control." Plus, all occupied territories ceded by the Qing must have been reverted back to China under The Treaty of San Francisco, but for some reason, Diaoytai, which was ceded along with Taiwan to Japan from the Qing, was not included. ROC, which was in the midst of the civil war with the Chinese Communist were unable to make a stance on this issue until after the war was over.

      Plus, anyone who has been watching the Diaoyutai/Senkaku disputes can tell you the belligerent here is obviously Japan. Japan has never detained fishermens from China before – China's response was right in the face of stubborn Japanese political defiance. Japan overstepped her boundaries, and China brought her to her knees.

    2. Spiritof76, NH says:

      If one reads Haha's comments (above) one would think that the Chinese are the victims of the brutal Japanese hegemony. Did China also rule Tibet? Where was the outrage of Chinese hegemony over Tibet and expelling of Dalai Lama? How about taking of Indian territory in the 1962 war with that country?

      The author wonders what the intentions of the Chinese are. Very simple-domination in the region and assertivenes over the rest of the world for the benfit of the Chinese- oil exploration and production for example. It is a different twist to the old imperialistic colonial rulers of Europe.

      It is hard to trust a regime whose rise to power was through annihilation of millions of its own people. Do you think they will have any regard to other people?

    3. Dave, California says:

      The use of the name Senkaku shows that the author is indeed biased. Overreaction on China's part? What are you talking about? What would Israel's reactions be if the German government denied the Holocaust ever happened or openly worshiped Adolf Hitler? That is what the Japanese government does today. They changed their school textbooks to whitewash their raping and killing millions of Chinese civilians. And the government officials worship class A war criminals like Tojo. Now they invaded and arrested Chinese citizens in China's Diaoyu Islands. If anything I think the Chinese reactions are too mild. You cannot push around China like the old days any more.

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