China Likely to Press Japan for Bigger Influence in Asia: Tokyo's Military Commitments with U.S. Upset Beijing
Witter, Willis, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)
TOKYO - Emboldened by its takeover of Hong Kong, China is expected to use a visit by Japanese Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto this week to press for greater influence in Asia - this time at the expense of the United States.
Japanese officials fear that Beijing's growing opposition to the U.S.-Japan military alliance will dominate Mr. Hashimoto's four-day visit to China that begins Thursday.
"We have many issues to cover [but] . . . this is at the top of the agenda, especially for the Chinese," said one Japanese Foreign Ministry official.
The Sino-Japan summit comes at a delicate time for both Japan the United States. Both are eager to improve ties with the world's most populous nation, not to mention its next military and economic superpower.
But as Mr. Hashimoto meets Chinese President Jiang Zemin in Beijing, officials back in Tokyo and Washington will be wrapping up a 2 1/2-year effort to upgrade the U.S.-Japan alliance.
Beijing's biggest fear, analysts say, is that the alliance will become a permanent obstacle to its eventual reunification with Taiwan.
"The Chinese have Taiwan on their mind, and the American presence is their biggest obstacle, no doubt about it," said Hisahiko Okazaki, a retired Japanese diplomat who heads his own research institute.
China considers Taiwan a rebel province and has not ruled out the use of force to conquer it. That makes the island a potential flash point that would test the new U.S.-Japan defense guidelines.
The last crisis over Taiwan occurred just 18 months ago. At the time, Beijing launched war games and missile tests to intimidate voters in the island's first direct presidential election. …