Published: 11:21, April 16, 2024
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Tokyo and Manila hope to ride on riled Washington's coattails
By China Daily

The two US officials visiting Beijing from Sunday to Tuesday will have found themselves at the forefront of the United States' "efforts to maintain open lines of communication and to responsibly manage competition", as the US State Department described the nature of their trip.

That is because Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel J. Kritenbrink and National Security Council Senior Director for China Affairs Sarah Beran will have been quizzed by Beijing about the markedly heightened security cooperation among the US and Japan and the Philippines after their first trilateral summit in Washington last week. The leaders of the three countries have made no bones about China being the rationale for what promises to be a bigger military footprint in the East and South China seas and intensified provocations.

The trilateral mischief-making clique is just the latest in a series engineered by Washington with the aim of containing China. It joins the Quad, AUKUS and Five Eyes in bringing countries together for that purpose. For the US, it is taking comfort in numbers. For the Philippines, it is an attempt to curry favor with the US in the hope of receiving some largesse. As evidenced by Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.repeatedly calling on the US to invest in the Philippines.

What Tokyo covets is Japan gaining the status of a "normal" country, which it thinks it can achieve by hitching itself to the US' "Indo-Pacific" strategy. Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida couldn't hide his satisfaction with the upgraded Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the United States and Japan, the main outcome of his meeting with US President Joe Biden on Wednesday.

Compared with Manila's shortsighted opportunism, Tokyo's scheming deserves much more vigilance from regional countries, as well as the US, something Kritenbrink and Beran should be urged to realize, because if realized, it will pose a grave challenge to peace and stability in the region and beyond.

Kishida has warmly welcomed the newly upgraded defense treaty with the US, which covers technology, command coordination, space and intelligence, as technically it puts Japan on a quasi equal footing with the US in security affairs, representing a solid step forward for Japan to not only end its subordination to the US but also become a global power.

The US intends its security alliance with Japan to become the focal point from which its other regional security mechanisms — including its envisioned "Indo-Pacific NATO" — radiate.

Thus the US military command in Japan is to be restructured to strengthen operational planning and military exercises involving the two countries' armed forces. This will ensure their security cooperation evolves into the core of the "Indo-Pacific" wing of the US' security network, with Tokyo helping to dovetail it with the transatlantic wing.

In this way, Japan is taking a ride on the US' strategy to contain China using the pretext of shared values.

That being said, it was interesting to hear Kishida stress in Washington that Japan will cooperate with China "on common challenges" and that Tokyo envisions a "stable Japan-China relationship" on all levels.

That leaves one wondering whether saying one thing and doing the other is something Tokyo has learned from Washington or it is the other way round.