China Responds Firmly to Obama Bluster on Disputed Islands
April 26, 2014 • 3:43PM

President Obama's first-ever Presidential declaration that the United States would prepare to do battle to defend Japan's right to "administer" the disputed Diaoyu/Senkaku islands, has served to fortify the Chinese will to maintain their legal claims to the island, including continued patrolling of the disputed territory.

Ruan Zongze, vice president of the China Institute of International Studies, noted that Obama's statements that the Diaoyu Islands come under the purview of the U.S.-Japan Security Alliance, "harmed the credibility of the U.S." as an honest broker. The military commitment which Obama has taken upon himself, Ruan said, could lead to unforeseen problems, and could "sabotage U.S. strategic initiatives in the region" and undermine any strategic flexibility it might have.

"Tokyo is keeping Washington in check in this regard, and, honestly, the ruling Japanese cabinet is very unpredictable," Ruan said. China Foreign Affairs University researcher Li Haidong commented that the weakening economic and military position of the United States generally is leading them to seek a "pillar" in Japan. "The U.S. seeks stability in the big picture of its relationship with China, yet Japan is not afraid of fanning the flames of a conflict with China."

A half-hour presentation on CCTV-4, a Chinese-language channel which places a great deal of emphasis on military affairs, described the reality of the decline of the U.S. economy, painting the United States as something of a "paper tiger," and noted that China, being on an upward path, will soon surpass the United States economically, and, it is intimated, militarily.

The Defense Ministry has also made it clear that it will continue with patrols in the "relevant waters" of the East China Sea, and that the Chinese military is "fully capable of safeguarding the Diaoyu Islands." The People's Liberation Army has also announced that it will begin patrols in waters near a tropical island where Japan is intent on building a new radar base. All of this could lead to what PLA Navy Commander Wu Shengli recently warned about, namely a "worst-case scenario" in which vessels patrolling in these narrow confines leads to an "incident" that can spark a major war. In spite of the fact that the regional navies recently signed at a meeting in Qingdao a Code of Conduct at sea in order to avoid such incidents, the ratcheting up of tensions which the Obama statement provoked, may well have negated all other measures intended to bring down tensions in the region.