The cat-and-mouse game around the disputed Senkakus continues unabated. Two Chinese coast guard ships entered Japanese waters around the islands in the East China Sea on Monday, prompting a rebuke from Tokyo.

In a report, a Japanese Defense Ministry think tank has warned that China’s coast guard could step up provocations around the Japanese-controlled islands following the passage of a controversial Chinese law allowing such ships to deter what Beijing considers intruders with arms if necessary.

Japan and the U.S. are preparing for joint exercises centered on a potential emergency near the Senkakus, having recently conducted what looks like a dry run in Shizuoka for dropping Self-Defense Force troops onto the islets. The two countries’ coast guards also conducted a drill around the Ogasawara Islands 1,000 kilometers south of Tokyo last month, Jesse Johnson reports.

Foreign and defence ministers of Indonesia and Japan hold bilateral meeting | CNA
Foreign and defence ministers of Indonesia and Japan hold bilateral meeting | CNA

Meanwhile, Tokyo is firming up alliances around the Indo-Pacific region. Japan and Indonesia signed a deal Tuesday enabling exports of Japanese-made defense equipment to the Southeast Asian country as both sides try to boost cooperation amid China’s rising assertiveness in regional waters.

Psychologically, Australia is already Japan’s second ally, argues Yoichi Funabashi, with deal-making to cement the relationship taking a while to catch up. The nations face common challenges, from China’s regional aggression to growing nationalism in the U.S., and the two nations are steadily being drawn closer, particularly since they make up 50% of the Quad grouping.

Europe, too, appears to be turning its attention toward the Indo-Pacific, recognizing that the region is emerging as the global “geopolitical and economic center of gravity,” as a British review put it recently. But hopes should be tempered, argues Brad Glosserman: Europe can add ballast to Asian affairs, but for a number of reasons, it is unlikely to actively influence them.