U.S. Walks a Fine Line between China, Japan; Beijing Fears Re-Emergence of Military Power in Tokyo

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), September 22, 2006 | Go to article overview

U.S. Walks a Fine Line between China, Japan; Beijing Fears Re-Emergence of Military Power in Tokyo


Byline: Richard Halloran, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

HARBIN, China - The Sino-American meeting was droning on about economic development in this northeastern corner of China when a Chinese scholar suddenly inter-jected a pointed question that, in effect, accused the United States of encouraging Japan to become an aggressive military power once again.

The scholar at the Heilongjiang Academy of Social Sciences, Wang Xiliang, began into a tirade asserting that Japan with U.S. approval had shed its postwar pacifist foreign policy to resume the aggressive posture it had from 1931 to 1945.

Referring to the deployment of Japanese contingents to Iraq, Mr. Wang said: "Japan should not send troops outside of Japan."

His outburst was directed at the commander of U.S. forces in Asia and the Pacific, Adm. William J. Fallon, who listened intently, then replied: "We welcome Japan's engagement in peacekeeping operations."

He said the Japanese "are trying to do things that are helpful, and they are not trying to do anything that is militarily aggressive."

Adm. Fallon told the Chinese, who often berate Japan for its brutal 15-year invasion of China, that he is more interested in the future than in the past.

He told Mr. Wang and the dozen Chinese scholars and military officers around the table: "It's not helpful to keep pointing to history."

The admiral, on his third visit to China in the past year, was in Harbin recently to expand contacts with China, particularly its People's Liberation Army. The United States has been trying to convince China that American intentions are peaceful, while exposing them to U.S. military capabilities to avert any miscalculation.

Adm. Fallon was successful in at least one respect: making fresh contacts. Maj. Gen. Kou Tie, China's military commander in this region, told Adm. Fallon just before hosting a banquet that he was the first American he had met.

Mr. Wang's condemnation of Japan reflected a downward spiral in relations between Beijing and Tokyo in the past five years. To assess those relations, the Center for Naval Analyses, the National Defense University and the Institute for Defense Analyses, all Washington-area think tanks, have joined the Pacific Forum of Honolulu in a six-month study.

The 30 participating political scientists, economists, retired military officers, government officials and diplomats agreed that the deterioration does not serve U.S. interests.

They noted that Washington has been seeking improved relations with China while also pursuing a stronger alliance with Japan.

Beyond that, however, there was no unanimity on the causes of the slide or what should be done about it, except for treading carefully. To encourage candor, conference rules preclude identifying the participants. …

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