Did Obama throw Japan under the bus?

It sure smells that way. During the state visit of Chinese tyrant President Hu Jintao, a Chinese blogger asked a key White House official about America’s position over a territorial dispute with Japan:

The United States recognizes no claims to the sovereignty of a set of islets in the East China Sea, an adviser to the U.S. president said Friday.

“The U.S. does not have position on the question of sovereignty regarding the issue of the Diaoyu Islands,” Benjamin Rhodes, deputy national security adviser for strategic communications in the White House, said in a video conference with Chinese bloggers set up by the U.S. Embassy in Beijing.

He was responding to Chinese blogger Ma Xiaolin, who questioned the United States taking the side of Japan on the issue by including the islets under the Japan-U.S. security treaty.

“We do not recognize the sovereignty claims by neither China nor Japan,” Rhodes said.

But, as L. Douglas Garrett points out at Competing Hypotheses, that highlighted statement simply isn’t true:

First, that isn’t historically correct. The U.S. in fact was the author of the postwar partitioning of territory in the area, and specifically mandated their return-by-transfer as part of the Okinawa reversion to Japan. P.R. Chinese and ROC claims to the area postdate that.

Second, it isn’t correct as extant policy. The status quo is expressly covered in the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty (1960 Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security with the United States, under which the territory is specified as part of the territory of Japan to be defended, as amended since reversion).

Keep that in mind: the United States is obligated to take military action should some nation (i.e., China) try to seize them by force.

Japan calls the islands the Senkakus and maintains that they were terra nullius (“land belonging to no one”) when annexed in 1895, during the First Sino-Japanese War. China, on the other hand, claims those islands were coerced from it as part of the treaty that ended the war. There are good background pieces on this dispute here and here. Though themselves uninhabited, the islands are important to both nations (and to Taiwan) for the control they give over the surrounding sea lanes and potentially large underwater oil and gas fields. A recent incident in which the Japanese Coast Guard seized a Chinese fishing trawler off the islands last September brought this dispute to the forefront, again.

Thus, it seems more than a coincidence that the President’s Deputy National Security Adviser would suddenly equivocate on past bipartisan American policy during a visit from our biggest creditor. Maybe this was the price for the pandas?

And, let’s face it: Japan wouldn’t be the first US ally tossed under the bus in an act of appeasement. Poland and the Czech Republic were both knifed in the back over missile defense. Israel has been under intense pressure in order to please the Arab states. One of our closest allies, Great Britain, which has troops fighting at our side in Afghanistan, found out we didn’t have their back over the Falkland Islands. Japan is, apparently, just the latest example of the Lightworker’s brilliant foreign policy, by which he promised to restore our standing in the world.

But such betrayals in pursuit of our enemies’ favors come at a price: our allies, the nations we rely on in a crisis, will more and more wonder if they can depend on us in a pinch and may seek “other arrangements.” In the case at hand, Japan is the foundation of our policy in East Asia and the Pacific; without its support, our position vis-a-vis China in the western Pacific would be much weaker, perhaps even untenable.

This one incident will not cause Japan to walk out on our alliance in a huff, of course, but consider it as another example that should make chancelleries around the world wonder whether they should stick their necks out for us, when we won’t protect their interests.

Smart Power, indeed.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)

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One Response to Did Obama throw Japan under the bus?

  1. History is context. It is exhilarating–watching the horizon for the epic logical conclusion–working against time to defuse the so-called “inevitable.”

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