Last week the 2+2 meeting was held in Washington. This is the insiders name for The Japan-U.S. Security Consultative Committee meeting, which brings together foreign and defense ministers from the two countries.
The Japanese newspaper Nihon Keizai Shimbun, which has always favored keeping pressure on China, both militarily and diplomatically, pointed out two things about this meeting in a June 23 editorial. First, it is now very clear what the two countries new strategic objectives are. They see Chinas rise as the factor destabilizing guarantees on regional security, and urge China to comply with international law and accept its responsibilities. Second, the meeting has further promoted the multi-national security alliance the two countries maintain with Australia, South Korea and India.
The last 2+2 meeting took place four years ago and confirmed Japan and Americas military and diplomatic solidarity vis-à-vis China. This time around the two allies promised to ratchet up their curb China strategies. Japan has in the past pulled the United States in to shake up the political and economic situation of East Asia. It is enlarging this scope to the South China Sea. This is to further encircle, and thus contain China. The conservative Japanese newspaper Yomiuri Shimbu quoted some important government officials saying that China is an international threat. He added: This is self-evident. All countries are concerned about China. It doesnt need to be spelled out.
During the 2+2 meeting, U.S. and Japanese government officials listed specific areas in which they see China as challenging regional security. In a joint statement they talk about other evolving threats, to outer space, to the high seas, and to cyberspace. The statement does not point out that America has been subverting other countries through its web revolution in the Middle East. Nor does it criticize Japan for pouring radioactive water into the high seas. And Japan certainly has no intention of criticizing Americas Star Wars program, which it has publicly advocated for decades.
America is investing an incredible amount of money in the research and development of Star Wars. And todays web world is dominated by American companies. The United States holds all the crucial technology of the Internet. America and Japan hope that America can maintain its leading position in space and the Internet. They do not wish to see any other country progress in this sphere. After the Fukushima incident, an unprecedented amount of contaminated water, which would normally require years to deal with, has been and will be dumped into the Pacific. We do not see a word in the 2+2 statement mentioning how they plan to deal with the very real and present threat of Fukushima.
Traditionally the 2+2 meeting has always been held in May. Due to the earthquake that hit Japan in March, it was postponed for more than a month. At home, Naoto Kan, the current Japanese prime minister, has hinted several times that he would resign. His government will at most last another two months. So how much does all this tough talk about China mean when Naoto Kans cabinet wont even have the ability to execute its policy? Whats even worse is that American Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates is set to leave his job at the end of June. Its hard to say, in other words, how effective the 2+2 talks for all their highlights will really be in curbing China.
The only real lesson from last weeks meeting is that Japan and America both see Chinas rise as something that threatens to destabilize the entire Asia Pacific region not just East Asia. We can also expect that for the foreseeable future, Japan and the United States with the cooperation of Australia, India and South Korea will stick to their policy of trying to contain China.
Photo - U.S. Department of State