Asia now more prone
to conflict than ever: report
By William Lowther / Staff reporter in WASHINGTON
Asia is now more prone to conflict than at any time in recent memory, American
Enterprise Institute (AEI) academic Michael Auslin wrote in an article published
in the Wall Street Journal.
¡§The East China Sea may see the world¡¦s first war started by aerial drones,¡¨
Auslin wrote in the article, which also appeared on the institute¡¦s Web site.
The British version of the Journal also published an editorial this week titled
¡§Alarm over the Taiwan Strait, which said it is time for Taipei and Washington
to shore up Taiwan¡¦s deteriorating defenses.
¡§At flashpoints like the Taiwan Strait, perceptions of weakness can lead to
dangerous miscalculations,¡¨ the editorial said.
Auslin, who is director of Japan Studies at AEI, said that unless China and
Japan quickly find a way to settle their territorial dispute over the Diaoyutai
Islands (³¨³½¥x) they are moving toward a military clash. Taiwan also claims the
islands, which lie in the East China Sea and are called the Senkakus by Tokyo.
¡§By sending naval flotillas through international waters that pass between
Japanese islands, flying early-warning airborne-control planes near strategic
choke points and ramping up its use of drones, China is flexing the military
might it has developed over the past two decades,¡¨ Auslin wrote in the report.
¡§Across Asia, the Chinese-Japanese dynamic raises concerns that regional
disputes will be settled only by might.¡¨
That makes smaller countries nervous, especially those facing their own
territorial disputes with China, as well as making it more difficult to develop
any meaningful political mechanisms, the report added.
¡§One way or another, this crisis will change the balance of power in East Asia ¡X
either Japan will surrender territory it has controlled for a generation, or
China will back down, becoming more resentful of today¡¦s international system
than before,¡¨ Auslin wrote.
Beyond that, the US-Japan alliance means that Washington needs to make it clear
that its military support will be immediately forthcoming should China ¡§cross
the line or goad Japan into using force to protect its territory,¡¨ he wrote.
This summer, institute academic Michael Mazza wrote a Defense Security Brief
saying the ongoing standoff in the waters around the Diaoyutais threatens
¡§[Chinese] PLA [People¡¦s Liberation Army] forces are getting prolonged
experience operating in waters east of Taiwan and relatively near one of
Taiwan¡¦s most important port cities, not to mention Taipei itself,¡¨ he wrote.
The knowledge that Chinese sailors are now gaining would be used in any effort
by Beijing to coerce or force Taiwan into a political settlement, Mazza said.
Eventual Chinese control of the island chain, or even an ongoing standoff, could
mean a sustained Chinese naval presence in waters near Taiwan, he added.
Even though the primary purpose of Chinese vessels is defending against Japan,
the ships would be well-positioned both to act against Taiwan and to forestall
Japanese intervention in a cross-strait conflict, Mazza wrote in the briefing.
¡§Such [a] presence unsettles Taiwan¡¦s northern flank and may require Taiwan¡¦s
military to adopt an extended peacetime defensive perimeter with a consequent
diminishment in concentration of forces,¡¨ he wrote.
In its editorial, the Journal said that after two decades of increasing
its military budget by more than 10 percent annually, China has nearly 2,000
ballistic missiles that ¡§could level Taiwanese targets in minutes.¡¨