China is poised to face a renewed challenge with greater grit and muscle-power from democratic nations to its bellicose attitude and dreams of territorial expansion in the waters of Asia.
The United States in its latest has lent a helping hand to Japan to handle Beijing's repeated incursions into the waters surrounding the Senkaku Islands, a Japanese daily has reported.
"The United States is 100% absolutely steadfast in its commitment to help the government of Japan with the situation," Lt. Gen. Kevin Schneider, the highest-ranking US military officer in Japan, was quoted as saying in a virtual press briefing. "That's 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, seven days a week."
This comes just days after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called "for a new alliance of democracies" to counter Beijing. The Senkaku Islands is an uninhabited chain of islands in the East China Sea which is administered by Japan, but claimed by China. The islands are located just northeast of Taiwan and, in terms of distance, is closer to the Chinese mainland than Japan's home islands.
Schneider noted that Chinese ships usually "would go in and out a couple of times a month and now we are seeing them basically park and truly challenge Japan's administration". "The duration of the incursions is beyond anything that we've seen in a long, long time," he said while adding that the US was offering Japan surveillance and reconnaissance assistance to assess the situation.
While the US giving explicit support is rare, it comes ahead of the end of a Chinese seasonal fishing ban scheduled for mid-August, the Nikkei Asian Review reported. Four years ago, 230 Chinese ships had gathered around the Senkakus – both fishing ships and Chinese Coast Guard vessels – with some entering Japanese territorial waters.
Citing Japanese defence white paper, the newspaper had earlier reported that there have been "relentless" intrusions in the areas around the Senkaku islands as called by Japan or Diaoyu in China.
Japan has begun investing heavily on its military and plans to acquire advanced weapon systems and naval vessels as it faces a twin threat from China and North Korea. Although Tokyo is bound by its Constitution to remain pacifist, it is realising the challenges to its national security and with Washington's backing, is ramping up defence capabilities.
Recently, Pompeo had said that the 'Quadrilateral Security Dialogue' – more commonly known as 'Quad' – involving the US, India, Japan, and Australia "has been reinvigorated". In a statement to the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday, he listed out a string of accomplishments America had on the China front and highlighted steps taken by other countries to counter Beijing's bellicose attitude.
"Japan led the G7’s condemnation of China’s national security law targeting Hong Kong. The EU condemned the law too, and also declared China a “systemic rival” just last year... Our Quad – the United States, Australia, India, and Japan – has been reinvigorated," Pompeo told US lawmakers.
America's top diplomat has applauded New Delhi many times for its renewed interest to fire up the Quad. Indian, US, and Japanese navies are scheduled to hold their annual 'Malabar' exercises later this year and India is expected to finally invite Australia to join. The Quad has been seen as a credible and potent deterrent to China's increasingly aggressive posture on geopolitical and economic affairs.
Chinese claims over the entire South China Sea has been rejected by the US and other countries and expectations are that like-minded countries may put up a united front to counter Beijing's territorial ambitions.
(With ANI inputs)