Today I read in the Financial Times, “Philippines backs rearming of Japan.”
My reaction was, “Philippines backs rearming of Japan!!!”
When China gets a Philippine official to state “We would welcome that very much,” in reference to having Japan ditch the pacifist clause in its constitution, then you know that the People’s Republic has completely botched its diplomacy. (The Philippines is a country that still remembers the Japanese occupation, albeit not near as vividly as China or Korea.)
I currently believe that the United States is still what preserves the peace in East Asia. China is being aggressive. The Chinese public (at least portions of it) seems to have some militaristic tendencies. (Click the link for the pictures.) So it is not hard to imagine a Chinese government trying for a splendid little war with the Philippines or Vietnam. Nor is the converse impossible: since Japan currently hold naval superiority, Japanese politicians might try to goad the big fellow into a similarly splendid little Sino-Japanese naval war.
It is not just China. Don’t forget the stunningly hostile South Korean reaction to Japanese possession of the Dokdo (aka Takeshima) islands.
I know, Steven Pinker tells us that we live in a less violent age. And he is right! But still ... sometimes a weird whiff of 1914 drifts over from East Asia. And it seems like the offshore balancing of the United States is what keeps the smell of gas from igniting.
Anyway, to bring it back full circle, when the Philippines calls for Japanese rearmament, then China’s attempt to assert its claim over the potentially energy-rich (and strategically located) South China Sea has now officially backfired.