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US abets Japan's rightists

China Daily | Updated: 2013-05-02 08:00

Washington apparently needs more political wisdom in handling its relations with Beijing and Tokyo.

Trilateral relations between China, the United States and Japan have always been delicate, but against the backdrop of the ongoing disputes between China and Japan over the Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea, their relations have become even more complicated.

On Tuesday, Cui Tiankai, China's ambassador to the US, warned that the US must not sacrifice long-term benefits for immediate interests, when refuting US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel's remarks concerning the Diaoyu Islands. Cui's warning is timely and well-intentioned as it points to the severe consequences Washington will have to face if it chooses to connive with Japan in the latter's increasingly dangerous stunts to trample on post-World War II order.

At a news conference with his Japanese counterpart Itsunori Onodera at the Pentagon on Monday, Hagel reassured his guest the Diaoyu Islands are under the jurisdiction of Japan and fall under the US-Japan security pact. But such oration is hardly worth refuting as both Washington and Tokyo lack the legal basis to cite their bilateral treaty in a territorial dispute involving a third country.

However, Hagel did signal US backing of Japan when he said Washington "opposes any unilateral or coercive action that seeks to undermine Japan's administrative control". The US defense chief should be reminded that the latest round of disputes over the Diaoyu Islands were instigated by his Japanese ally. Tokyo has made a series of provocative moves that have continually raised the temperature in the dispute.

The Pentagon's backing will only encourage the bellicose Japan to make further trouble, which will in turn threaten regional peace and stability. As a country that repeatedly claims it has a stake in Pacific peace and stability, the US should carefully calculate its gains and losses if it chooses to be more deeply involved in the region's territorial disputes.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's ultra-rightist rhetoric on the definition of "aggression" last week was symbolic of a nasty trend in Japanese politics. With Abe and his cabinet increasingly nationalistic, there is no guarantee that Tokyo will not take further steps to disavow its history of aggression. Instead of allowing itself to be hijacked by Japan's right-leaning politicians, Washington should be vigilant against the ill tendency in Tokyo and try to contain it.

Giving the reins to a rightist and potentially militarist Japan will do no good for Americans.

(China Daily 05/02/2013 page8)

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