17 January 2013, 13:21

Is China-Japan war imminent?

Is China-Japan war imminent?
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Mikhail Mozzhechkov, an independent journalist and the head of the Russian Club in Tokyo, talks on the possibility of a military conflict between China and Japan.

The basic question, I’m sure our audience would love to know your opinion as to – do we really need to expect a war between Japan and China?

I don’t think that the war between Japan and China might be in the nearest future because none of the countries seriously consider this development of their situation, but basically both of the countries are preparing. So, if we look for example at first movements of the Abe Government, then he increased the budget for the self-defense forces of Japan. And also they are now doing some training, for example for paratrooper forces and other forces. And one of the tasks of those trainings is defending of the remote islands. So, Japan is clearly showing that they are planning to defend those islands in case of the Chinese intervention. Also there were joint drills between the US and the Japanese paratroopers and military forces for defending of the islands. So, I think that Japan is seriously considering the possibility of China trying to take those islands by force.

But do you think that the Chinese would go that far?

Difficult to say, but one of the reasons for example of the escalation of the conflict in the last year was a problem in the Chinese economy which put the Chinese Government into a very unstable position. I think that was one of the reasons why China raised the problem with the islands and they tried to somehow facilitate their national states to Japan because any government which feels unstable is looking for an external enemy, and for China it was easy to do.

So, I don’t think they will go that far but they are trying to show to Japan, and not only to Japan, but also to the main partner of Japan in military, to the US, that their forces are strong enough to control the Pacific Ocean. One of the main events on this is the use of the ex-Soviet air carrier which China through special military service bought from Ukraine, the ex-Soviet republic, and at the moment they are showing to the whole world that they have an air carrier. At the moment China has a very extensive program of building air carriers. So, some of the experts say that by 2015 the fleet of China would be not stronger, but at least comparable to the US fleet in Pacific Ocean.

This is an alarming analysis you are giving us. But with Mr. Abe now touring some regional countries, trying to get more support in his confrontation with China, do you think that the governments of those countries are prepared to grant Japan the support Mr. Abe is seeking?

I’m not sure that he will get what he actually expects from this visit. The reasons of the visit are quite clear because at the moment there is a strong pressure from China, there are Chinese ships which are going to the territorial waters, around the disputed islands. That’s why also there are a lot of conflicts at the moment between China and the Philippines, China and Malaysia etc on the islands which may have some natural resources around them. That’s why I think that Japan is not alone in the fear of China because other countries, like the Philippines or Vietnam, they have territorial disputes with China. And if China gets stronger – no country of the region can solely be against China. That’s why I think Abe is trying to make allies around so they can withstand the pressure from China.

Sir, do you think we could remind very briefly our listeners about the maritime ambitions of China?

At the moment the military ambitions of China is to become the first power in the Pacific Ocean. I think that’s the main target because at the moment China has huge troops, but those troops are very difficult to transport. You cannot win the war just with the machineguns, that’s why basically they are looking into expansion of their fleet, especially air carriers. And in the future they want to solve disputes with countries around them with their force in the ocean I think because all the disputes of China are for the remote islands.

And at the moment as you know the international laws for the marine areas, for example to claim a certain area of the ocean you just need a small island there. So, if China can claim all those islands, they will get a huge area for the fishery, for expanding their search for natural resources (oil and gas). And this race I think started after 1970’es when the UN made a search for natural resources in this area and it was stated that all of those islands may have gas and oil. So, I think that the main purpose is natural resources.

Just to draw a line under our interview, do I get it right that we are in for more confrontation in the region?

I would say yes. I think Japan is seriously preparing to confrontation, and China does. So, for example Japan for several times asked the US on all the levels if they will support them in case of the conflict around those islands. They are looking for support from those other countries of the region and at the moment the military budget of Japan increased. They are increasing the forces, they put special marines in the area of the disputed islands. So, I would say, at least from the perception of Japan, they are very seriously preparing to that conflict.

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