Foreign Minister Takeaki Matsumoto met with his Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi in Beijing on Monday. The meeting took place at a time when China is causing friction with neighboring countries, including Vietnam and the Philippines because of its activities in the South China Sea.
In the East China Sea, there were three cases in March and April in which Chinese aircraft came very close to Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force ships on a patrol. In March, a Japanese Air-Self Defense Force jet fighter scrambled because a Chinese reconnaissance plane approached the Senkaku Islands.
In June, a Chinese flotilla, coming from the East China Sea, passed between Okinawa Island and Miyako Island, entered the Pacific Ocean for training and then returned to the East China Sea, again passing between the two islands. The same month, a Chinese survey ship entered Japan’s exclusive economic zone off Miyagi Prefecture.
In meeting with Mr. Yang, Mr. Matsumoto expressed Japan’s apprehension over China’s stepped-up activities in the seas around China. But Mr. Yang said the problems should be solved through talks between China and the particular country concerned. Thus no agreement was reached.
Japan’s new Defense Program Outline adopted in December 2010 describes China’s growing military budget, rapid military modernization, active naval actions in the seas around Japan and lack of transparency in military matters as a “matter of concern for the region and the international community.”
The June 21 Japan-U.S. joint statement on security matters particularly mentioned China’s anti-access and area denial capabilities on the open ocean, which are apparently aimed at preventing the United States from militarily interfering with Taiwan.
Tensions are likely to rise in the seas around Japan. To prevent a situation that could lead to miscalculation by either party, Japan should deepen defense dialogue with China in earnest while closely cooperating with the U.S.
An immediate solution is unlikely. But Japan and the U.S. must devise a way to encourage China to act as a responsible player in the international community. Beijing on its part should realize that its increased military activities could isolate China.