Bi­den’s visit

US vice-pres­i­dent faces dif­fi­cult task of paci­fy­ing Tokyo while openly com­mu­ni­cat­ing with Bei­jing

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - By CHEN WEIHUA in Wash­ing­ton and CAI HONG in Tokyo Con­tact the writ­ers at chen­wei­hua@chi­nadai­lyusa.com and cai­hong@chi­nadaily.com.cn Pu Zhendong in Bei­jing and Reuters con­trib­uted to this story.

US Vice-Pres­i­dent Joe Bi­den is due to be in Tokyo amid ten­sions be­tween China and Ja­pan be­fore con­tin­u­ing his Asian tour to Bei­jing and Seoul.

US Vice-Pres­i­dent Joe Bi­den ar­rived in Tokyo late on Mon­day for the first leg of a tour of East Asia that will later take him to China and South Korea.

Bi­den’s visit comes amid mount­ing ten­sions be­tween China and Ja­pan over ter­ri­to­rial claims and China’s an­nounce­ment last month of its East China Sea Air De­fense Iden­ti­fi­ca­tion Zone.

Bi­den is walk­ing a diplo­matic tightrope, ac­cord­ing to ob­servers, with var­i­ous par­ties call­ing on him to sup­port their stances, while oth­ers look to the US to calm ten­sions.

Ja­panese Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe said on Sun­day that he would dis­cuss China’s air de­fense iden­ti­fi­ca­tion zone with Bi­den on Tues­day to co­or­di­nate their stances.

“We want to hold con­sul­ta­tion and deal with the mat­ter by co­or­di­nat­ing closely be­tween Ja­pan and the United States,” Abe said.

One day be­fore Bi­den’s ar­rival, the US Navy’s first ad­vanced P- 8 pa­trol air­craft ar­rived in Ja­pan, start­ing a de­ploy­ment that will up­grade Wash­ing­ton’s abil­ity to hunt sub­marines and other ves­sels in seas close to China, Reuters re­ported.

White House of­fi­cials have em­pha­sized that the visit is part of a con­tin­uum of US en­gage­ment in the Asia-Pa­cific re­gion.

“The trip will un­der­score the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s strong com­mit­ment to the re­bal­ance and to our en­dur­ing role as a Pa­cific power,” a se­nior ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cial said last week.

“It is an op­por­tu­nity to give lift to our treaty al­liances and to ad­vance our very im­por­tant re­la­tion­ship with China,” the of­fi­cial said of Bi­den’s trip.

Ob­servers said that paci­fy­ing Tokyo and com­mu­ni­cat­ing with Bei­jing might be Bi­den’s main task, but it will be dif­fi­cult for him to achieve an ar­range­ment that is sat­is­fac­tory for all par­ties.

Sta­ple­ton Roy, a scholar at the Kissinger In­sti­tute on China and the United States at the Wil­son Center, said that the US and China share a ma­jor re­spon­si­bil­ity to act wisely and re­spon­si­bly in deal­ing with re­gional sources of ten­sion.

“Nei­ther of the two coun­tries should let the pas­sions of the mo­ment drive their be­hav­iors,” said Roy, who was also the US am­bas­sador to China in the early 1990s.

Lead­er­ship role

How­ever, Zha Dao­jiong, a pro­fes­sor of in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions at Pek­ing Univer­sity, said Wash­ing­ton ap­pears to be in­creas­ingly tak­ing a lead­er­ship role in the diplo­matic im­passes among Tokyo, Bei­jing and Seoul — a role that many in Wash­ing­ton would rather not take on.

“The truth of the mat­ter is that the ex­pec­ta­tions of the three north­east Asian cap­i­tals for ‘re­as­sur­ing’ words and ac­tions from Wash­ing­ton DC could eas­ily put the US de­sire to sat­isfy ev­ery­one un­der strain,” Zha said.

“As such, real­is­ti­cally, the Bi­den trip can and should func­tion as one that per­son­i­fies the usual US call for re­straint on the part of each of the three North­east Asian cap­i­tals, re­ject­ing con­flict, which no party de­sires,” he added.

Since China an­nounced its air de­fense iden­ti­fi­ca­tion zone on Nov 23 Wash­ing­ton has re­peat­edly voiced its re­jec­tion of the zone, even fly­ing two B-52 bombers to show de­fi­ance, al­though the Pen­tagon said the flights were part of long-planned mil­i­tary drills.

Tokyo and Seoul also re­fused to rec­og­nize the zone, which over­laps with Ja­pan’s ADIZ over China’s Diaoyu Is­lands in the area, and both have flown planes over China’s zone with­out re­port­ing to the Chi­nese au­thor­i­ties ahead of time. In re­turn, China said it has dis­patched air force jets to mon­i­tor th­ese air­craft.

Wu Xinbo, di­rec­tor of the In­sti­tute of Amer­i­can Stud­ies at Fu­dan Univer­sity in Shang­hai, said that Bei­jing’s air de­fense iden­ti­fi­ca­tion zone cov­ers an area that fea­tures the most fre­quent US mil­i­tary ac­tiv­i­ties in the re­gion, and thus has in­fringed on the so-called “US strate­gic in­ter­est”.

“It def­i­nitely im­pacts the low-al­ti­tude US re­con­nais­sance against China and its joint ex­er­cises with al­lies. The bombers were dis­patched to the zone only as a demon­stra­tion of Wash­ing­ton’s tough pos­ture,” Wu said.

China has also asked air­craft to sub­mit flight plans when travers­ing the area.

In de­fi­ance, Tokyo has or­dered Ja­panese air­lines not to sub­mit flight plans to Bei­jing, but Wash­ing­ton said on Fri­day that it gen­er­ally ex­pected US car­ri­ers to “op­er­ate con­sis­tent with” no­ti­fi­ca­tion poli­cies is­sued by for­eign coun­tries.

For­eign Min­istry Spokesman Hong Lei ex­pressed on Mon­day his ap­pre­ci­a­tion for the con­struc­tive at­ti­tude of sev­eral air­lines that have re­ported flight in­for­ma­tion to Chi­nese au­thor­ity. He also urged Ja­pan to stop mak­ing ground­less ac­cu­sa­tions and take joint re­spon­si­bil­ity with China in safe­guard­ing avi­a­tion con­trol in the airspace.

“The fact that Tokyo has de­lib­er­ately politi­cized the mat­ter is not con­ducive to bi­lat­eral co­op­er­a­tion in civil avi­a­tion,” Hong said.

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