As if the arguments over China laying claim and total rights to all of the South China Sea including the right to prevent its usage by other nations and to intercept and claim all goods on any ship found in its waters wasn’t enough to drive the rest of the countries of Asia to the brink, the recent launch of a three stage rocket which proved capable of placing an object in orbit, even if not under total control, has made the games even more interesting. China’s South China Sea claims pushed India, Japan, and Viet Nam to join their forces and hold a joint naval operation in a move of unity and signaling their defiance of China’s claims. Japan has even taken the initial steps of amending their Constitution in order to allow them to strengthen their military making it able to operate away from their coastal waters and serve as more than simply a home-front guard. The levels of apprehension emanating from China’s neighbors are more than a simple reaction to China’s growing power, but are equally likely a reaction to the apparent diminishing of American power in South East Asia. With China rapidly expanding their naval power and soon to be launching modern aircraft carriers the nations in the area are starting to doubt if the United States will still be able to uphold their part of the treaties and conventions which had held the balance in the area until recently. With the announcement by United States President Obama that the American Navy will soon be downsized, and most critically, reducing the number of aircraft carriers and fleets by as much as one third has sent ripples of panic through the nations who had been dependent on the American Navy to be the overwhelming force in the Pacific but now are looking at a new order rushing into place where China is the eight-hundred pound gorilla in the Pacific Ocean. This situation will deserve close attention as it may be the best indicator of the waning of the United States as a global power and the emergence of China as one of the new central figures in the coming new order.
Enough said on China which has been well covered and on to this recent semi-successful launch by North Korea and its effect on the area. Already there have been reaction coming from politicians in Japan and South Korea and they are taking opposite sides. As has been the recent trend in South Korea to the developments and challenges coming from their northern neighbors, North Korea, they are once again preaching appeasement. South Korea has been slowly sliding towards some form of reconciliation and reuniting with the North Korea and away from their United States orbit. They have all the signs of a tired people who have simply accepted their inability to influence or alter the inevitable. The passivity of South Korean politics likely reflects the mood of the younger citizens as most polls show a continued desire to resist any influences coming from North Korea while indicating that the younger South Koreans favor compromises and finding a path that is non-combative and more agreeable, avoiding possibilities of conflict or misunderstanding. Time will tell if the political pendulum will continue to swing in this current direction or if it is reaching its apogee and is soon to begin to swing back towards defending the difference between the two Koreas.
Meanwhile, Japan is taking the exact opposite approach. Japanese politicians have almost universally expressed dismay and proposed defending their islands from the growing threat posed by North Korea. Where developing nuclear weapons has thus far mostly been a subject left untouched on the shelf, this reaction from Japan is consistent with their reactions to China’s growing militarism and aggressive attitudes over the South China Sea. Japan has been reaching out and establishing ties with India among other Asian countries who also feel threatened by China and now North Korea. Japan is currently working to free themselves from what was historically a self-imposed passivity after World War II when they insisted that being restricted militarily to a self-defense force by their constitution. Needless to say, the United States gladly complied. That restriction is very likely to become a relic of an age that is passing into history with few who recall the reasoning and desires that gripped Japan after the devastations brought upon themselves by their aggressions which led to World War II and their eventual crushing defeat. So, it appears that the old historic rivals may both soon be building militaries once again and heading for another episode in the series of conflicts that have been regular occurrences throughout all of history. As they say, the more things change, the more they remain the same. The one fact that makes this scenario even more threatening is the fact that China has a demographic time-bomb ticking away due to their one child per family laws. This has had two dangerous effects; the first is a rapidly aging population and the second is the large percentage of male children among the generations since the passage of the one child rules which has always historically led to wars since beginning of time.
Beyond the Cusp