Last November, the People's Republic of China(PRC), flush with new wealth gained from cheap labor; with a modernizing military; and driven by an insatiable appetite for natural resources, unilaterally demarcated the East China Sea. China's self-satisfying declaration of an Air Defense Identification Zone(ADIZ) was created and implemented without consultation with its neighbors. China's decision that Chinese interpretation of laws of the seas would trump international law over Asian waters, meant that China's line in the sea encompassed spaces already allotted to Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. The line also engulfed the Japanese administered Senkaku Islands that China also claims.
On the South China Sea, China claims 90 percent of the resource rich waters and its claims encroach into the 200-mile exclusive economic zones of the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia and Indonesia. China has had recent spats with the Philippines regarding fish and mineral rich shoals in Philippines waters. On May 1, China moved a deep sea oil drilling rig into Vietnamese waters. Vietnam has objected. China has kept on drilling. The Philippines has brought a case against China before the International Court at the Hague, Netherlands. Vietnam is considering the same. Other ASEAN nations, fearing China's economic grip and influence over them, have failed to condemn China's actions. The United States has categorized as "provocative" China's assertions. Vietnam and the Philippines have held talks of cooperation to buffer China's aggression.
And today, both Vietnam and the Philippines could gain some help in withstanding China's assertion as Japan seeks a greater role in Asian security. As reported by the BBC, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, will make a case to promote Japan "as a counterbalance to China" to fearing ASEAN nations. Abe will make his case at the three-day Shangri-La Dialogue summit in Singapore. In his keynote address before the Asia Security summit of defense ministers of ASEAN nations, Prime Minister Abe is expected to spell out a vision of Japan and the US playing greater roles in security cooperation in Asia. Chuck Hagel, US Secretary of Defense will also attend the summit along with China's Vice Foreign Minister Fu Ying.
Japan's intents should be welcomed by ASEAN. China will attempt to paint Japan as the aggressor, but the evidence suggest differently. Japan's cooperation should be of some solace to smaller ASEAN countries who fear a China Crimea-style ploy in the region. Though the US has security treaties with both Japan and the Philippines, the smaller nations who lack a formal treaty of security protection with the US, should attain some comfort having Japan serve as a determined balancing actor to Chinese aggression.