China, Japan Fated for Conflict?


Following is a guest entry from James Hardy, Asia-Pacific editor of Jane's Defence Weekly.

The East China Sea has seen two more tense incidents involving Japan and China in the past couple of weeks. But is this proof that these fractious neighbours are heading towards a state of perpetual tension?

Perhaps. But maybe this is only to be expected.

The first incident, in which Japan Air Self-Defence Force F-15J fighters intercepted Chinese Y-8 surveillance planes about 30 kilometres from the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands, looks like a Chinese ploy to test Japan's reflexes.

The second, in which a Chinese State Oceanic Administration helicopter flew to within 70 metres of Japanese Maritime Self-Defence Force destroyer Samidare (DD-106), was the diplomatic equivalent of flipping the bird.

That it took place in the Shirakaba/Chunxiao gas field, where cooperation between the two countries has stalled since last September's incident near the Senkaku islands, suggests that friction between the two will continue to occur when and where their interests collide. Tokyo says Chinese drilling could be extracting gas from under its exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

But back on the surface, neither incident changes relations damaged by the clash last September between the Japan Coast Guard and a Chinese trawler near the Senkaku islands. China has so far refused to react publicly to Japanese condemnation of the two latest incidents, while the resignation of Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara and budgetary problems are keeping Prime Minister Naoto Kan's hands full for the moment.

Many commentators, including Shogo Suzuki writing here in November, believe that the Kan administration has dealt well with Japan's truculent neighbours, despite widespread public and media criticism. The Senkaku incident ended with US support for Japanese sovereignty over the Senkakus and China facing an international backlash for its bullying tactics.

Since then, the Kan administration has published defence guidelines for the next five years that realign Japanese forces so that they face the East China Sea and protect Tokyo's interests in this area. There's nothing weak or indecisive about establishing a larger submarine fleet, transferring a squadron of F-15s to Okinawa and establishing a radar station on the Yaeyama islands southwest of the main Okinawa chain.

Attempts to create closer military ties with South Korea, including exchanges and joint drills, follow similar agreements with Australia and suggest that the Japanese Defence Ministry is serious about building bilateral alliances under the US security umbrella.

But this realignment is complicated by external factors: China's own response, which as recent events show, could test Japan's nerve and capabilities; North Korea, which satellite imagery suggests is preparing for a third nuclear test; and Russia.

The Kuril Islands have become a diplomatic headache for Kan since Russian President Dmitry Medvedev decided to turn them into a nationalist sacred cow, or ‘inalienable part of Russia’, late last year. While conflict is less than unlikely, Russian defence officials have spent the past month talking up plans for upgraded air defence, the deployment of amphibious landing ships to the country’s Far East and the revitalisation of infantry forces on the islands.

Hardening Russian rhetoric suggests the best Kan can hope for is a reduction of tensions. But the prime minister may be justified in considering the bitter irony of his position: pilloried for an issue that encapsulates Japan's 60-year failure under the Liberal Democratic Party to deal with its World War II demons.

Taro Ishihara Jr.
April 4, 2013 at 17:31

@ Bogart X,

Hello, anybody home? The 2008 worldwide financial tsunami and the Arab Spring which follows, the troubles in Egypt, Syria and Libya, the South Sea conflict, the China-Japan isalnd conflict, the North Korea crisis, Gordon Chang's forever extended prediction of China's Collapse, the QE 1, 2,3,4, and QE unlimited, and the year 2013 mass money printing of Japan, etc., are all staged and directed by the big boss United States. Are you ignorant or just lacks of common sense?

On the other hand, the way Japan is progressing really is leading itself to destruction, just contrary to your comments on China. Please have a deeper look of Japan's history especially before and during the World War II. Japan is a self destructive breed, not China.

Min Kawata
April 4, 2013 at 16:21


Make sure everyone in India has at least a pair of shoes first before you talk of war with China. India is not even close to the level of mightness of Japan.

March 29, 2013 at 13:41

The West are more ignorant than China, especially the United States.

You got some point that war is already going on in some way. Future war may not necessarily need to be millitary only. US can alway use the western media gangs to keep defaming rivals like China and keep shifting the focus from US's mistakes and failures to China. She did it already to Iraq already by telling big lie on destructive weaspon, thouh still need some millitary actions.

US turned the whole world upside down in 2008 with her wall street smart heads. Then finish off many Middle East governments by the resulting financial mess and her ongoing media manipulation. Look at Egypt, Syria, and Libya. Now both US and Japan start another project of unlimited mass money printing to fight back the shirts and pants they already lost at the expense of the whole world's economy stability.

War with China?

US has to finish her civil war at the Capitol Hill first, cure her cancer of health care system first, spend more time on the American kids' and tennage's mental problems first, stop printing money and let the oil price go down first, find solution to the ever happening everywhere gun shootings first, create more real jobs first, fix her welfare system first, fix her education failures first, ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, hey, this list will go on forever. You still expect a war first?

United States should look herself at the mirror first.




March 29, 2013 at 12:55


Please don't use that laughing ball head  in this blog. It makes yourself silly and out of the level with all other bloggers.

I almost forget to tell you and John Chan blogging should be more fun than forever reading you gentlemen's eye stressful debate here.


Bogart X.
September 18, 2012 at 12:56

"As you said “Though that’s neither here nor there.” Then I just wonder why so many people shouting and yelling when China makes a legitimate claim on the South China Sea as “core interest” based on the historical facts. Is it because they know China’s claim is legitimate, and they cannot win the claim either by argument or by force? Such loud noise is also heard to other China claimed lands."
John Chan if the Chinese' claims really are legitimate as you say then they would be willing to take it to UNCLOS, in which China is also a signatory of, as the other claimant nations suggested. Instead China wants bilateral talks with the concerned nations where China undoubtedly has huge advantage.
"In the international law, reality always trumps argument and strong always trumps weak, that’s why weak nation always loss and such injustice is over historical books. For example when China was weak…"
And that's what China is currently doing, pushing around the weaker countries. You can't even define accurately the boundaries of your claim to the SCS. Who knows how far your claim goes? The nine-dashed line claim only states here, there, and there, it's so vague that your own Chinese officials can't even exactly pin-point where it is. Why? Because the truth is, it is as far as they can push those countries, even up to the shores if they can. Surely, greed knows no bounds.
You see if Britain claims now its lost territories they would only be asking for war. And that is what China is doing right now. As you said, it is only legitimate if you have the means to occupy it. And do you think the affected countries would outright give it to China? The way China is progressing really is leading itself to destruction.

September 13, 2012 at 19:54

its simple, diaoyu island was part of china before the ww2 and japanese took over it during the ww2. After Japan was defeated, the US basically took the island as its military base. When the US retrieved from the island, they simply gave Japan the power to rule the island, but according to the treaty Japan signed after its defeats, Japan needs to return all the territories that didnt belong to them back, which should include the diaoyu island. So all of these conflicts between China and Japan, (including Korea and Japan) are caused by the US. Scumbags..

Humble man
February 6, 2014 at 20:44

Excellent point, very accurate and I completely agree. Other readers should study history first before write any productive comments, rather than listen to biased, lack of credibility of japanese and western medias.

PO3 Horsley
February 28, 2012 at 16:17

@ John Jie- And as far as China’s naval and air capability, it is steadily growing. Within the next two decades, it is very likely that China will have a naval force capable of supporting air assests. And this is a force that will be capable of projecting past its general area of operation. Should they choose to invade Taiwan, at this point they are definately capable. And with the debt we owe to China, it is very tough to say what side the US will take. A war with China, be it now or whenever is going to be very interesting.

PO3 Horsley
February 28, 2012 at 16:10

Truly interesting article. The real interesting part will be what role the US decides to play in a potential conflict between the two. The same can be said with the China-Taiwan conflict as well.

yang tsup
October 29, 2011 at 01:30

let just say for a minute that war broke up in the region, millions dead and every nations involved suffers economically.. Only the westerner and european will benefit from this foolish disagreement between asian races.

John Jie
October 25, 2011 at 00:04

I find all these comments totally irrelevant and irrational. China doesn’t have the naval or air power to attack any country other than those that are contiguous to China’s land mass. Therefore China-Japan and China-U.S military conflicts are out of the question. The only China -U.S. conflict that might arise is with respect to Taiwan. If Taiwan proclaims independence, China will definitely attack Taiwan and the U.S. may or may not choose to defend Taiwan. Although the U.S. obviously has the capability of attacking China, I doubt that they will ever even consider such a foolhardy venture with boots on Asia mainland again. There is very little for China and India to conflict over other than small parcels of worthless land at the Himalaya foothills.

July 8, 2011 at 10:02

Most people in the world don’t like the Japanese, as some of them never admit their criminal behaviour to the other nations during the Second World War.It is very dangerous for the world if Japan get more wapons. The U.S.A.should supervise and control the Japan for the peace of the world.

June 23, 2011 at 19:11

you seem to live in a imaginary world, it is quite possible that you have lost all sense of reality and your cognitive devolution is complete. India wont dare attack china? Dont underestimate our might when compared to the chinese.
And please study history before making tall claims.

John Chan
March 19, 2011 at 17:33

@John, indeed, for the moment we must agree to disagree. No hegemony has ever given up dominance by itself. The imperialist USA and its allies are no exception. They treat the aspiration of the suppressed for equality and self-determination as threat, and do their utmost best to crash the voice for freedom and justice.

It is true “that history has shown us that might makes right arguments inevitably lead to conflict. It’s a pity that the imperial US and its lackeys must continue to follow the proverb that those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.” The collapse of corrupted and decadent Roman Empire is their fate to end.

Your warning is loud an clear, China has been warned many many times with threats, and big guns just like you did, China had paid indemnity, humiliation, territory, and millions of lives when China did not heed the warning to the liking the West and Japan. The imperial West and Japan is warning China again. Is it the harbinger of the evil empire to strike again?

China has been struggling against the West exploitation and suppression for more than 150 years, it is time for China to stand up to shake off that imperial yoke and keep its independence with all means.

March 18, 2011 at 14:47

John Chan, I feel we must agree to disagree.

You can live with an ethnonationalist mindset, I wish to leave nationalism back in the 19th Century and move onto a global community, so will support those ideas that lead to less nationalism and ethnocentrism.

In regards to the South China Sea, there is no evidence that China controlled those areas in the past, though if you can show me historical facts that China controlled Mischief Reef in the the Qing Dynasty then I will look at it, though it seems that its simply an argument that force majure is the only reason for it.

Personally, I would warn you that history has shown us that might makes right arguments inevitably lead to conflict. If you are speaking for the Chinese people then all I can say, is its a pity that they must continue to follow the proverb that those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.

John Chan
March 18, 2011 at 04:20

@John, as the spirit of international law says it is your sovergnty only if you can maintain it. There are more than one million square miles of China’s ancestor land is under foreign occupation. China only can claim sovergnty on those lands when China has the means to maintain authority over them.

British definitely will use the ex-British Empire territory as basis to reclaim those lost lands as a legitimate and legal excuse if British has the means to reoccupy those lands again, including part of Shanghai, HK, etc.

If India, Pakistan, and other ex-British colonies claim British Isles as their territory based on the historical fact when they have the means to occupy it, that occupation is certainly legitimate in the spirit of international law.

When nations try to make a claim on a territory in an international institution, such as UN, the nation presenting the stronger historical evidence wins the claim. British’s claim on part of Shanghai, and HK will lose the claim to China, because China has stronger ownership evidence than the British.

In the international law, reality always trumps argument and strong always trumps weak, that’s why weak nation always loss and such injustice is over historical books. For example when China was weak, Russia lost war to Japan in the fight over the interest of Manchuria, Russia transfer all its control of Manchuria to Japan without China’s consent and participation, and all imperial powers and international bodies approved it as legitimate. It’s also the case in the Whiteman’s claim on America over native Indian in terms of ownership of the land, although the Whiteman are intruders; Whiteman became legitimate and legal owners, they can evict native Indian as they see fit.

As you said “Though that’s neither here nor there.” Then I just wonder why so many people shouting and yelling when China makes a legitimate claim on the South China Sea as “core interest” based on the historical facts. Is it because they know China’s claim is legitimate, and they cannot win the claim either by argument or by force? Such loud noise is also heard to other China claimed lands.

It seems you are interpreting history at your own convenience, when it doesn’t suit you, you say whatever China’s argument is not valid with some specious excuses.

Jason smith
February 6, 2014 at 20:55

I completely agree with you john, you are the most knowledge man I come across, we need more people like you to make constructive and fair opinion. Keep up a good work, don’t let all those brain washed japanese and westerners get you.

March 17, 2011 at 22:31

Its not a refusal to accept historical documents as evidence as it is an unwillingness to try to live the past today.

Plus you are only using history as it suits your arguments, when it doesn’t then you claim the area that is controlled by the Qing Empire at its height as being Chinese territory.

If I were to use the British Empire at its height to say that its territory is always British, would you agree?

This would include parts of Shanghai, Hong Kong, etc.

See the argument is that we are looking at two different issues, and you are only using yours because it suits you, not because its correct.

Though thats neither here nor there.

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