Conflicting claims over Asian islands set stage for international incident

Following years of increasing tensions with Japan, South Korea and the United States, the Chinese government proclaimed an Air Defense Identification Zone on Nov. 23. China’s establishment of an ADIZ is only the latest in a series of provocative actions by Beijing, Tokyo and Washington over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands. Reckless Chinese, Japanese and American actions threaten to erupt into a catastrophic conflagration on a scale that has not been seen since 1945.

Chinese and Japanese governments both claim a collection of rocky, virtually uninhabitable islets, the Senkakus – or Diaoyus in Chinese. Sovereignty over these islands would allow for control of vital fisheries and the Chunxiao gas fields nearby.

Beyond the ruthless exploitation of natural resources needed by the world’s second and third-largest economies, the islands are becoming the center of a new Sino-Japanese conflict since their “nationalization” by Tokyo in 2012 and Beijing’s counterclaim.

Both China and Japan are using their competing claims to whip up nationalist sentiment under conditions of growing inequality and slowing economic growth.

Based on the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the U.S. and Japan and repeated affirmations by the administration of President Barack Obama, a war involving Japan would likely draw in the U.S. military. Another war between China and Japan would be immensely destructive, especially given the prospect of American intervention.

Moreover, both China and the U.S. are nuclear powers, raising the specter of a thermonuclear holocaust.

The Chinese government is not solely – or even primarily – responsible for the escalation of tensions in Asia. One of Obama’s chief foreign policy initiatives is the “pivot to Asia,” whereby the U.S. would disentangle itself militarily from the Middle East in favor of countering Chinese influence in East Asia.

This has already resulted in the provocative shift of American naval power to the Pacific Ocean. According to CNN, 50 percent of U.S. warships are located in the Pacific, with plans to increase the amount to 60 percent.

The Obama administration has also aggressively backed the frightening rebirth of Japanese militarism under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Abe’s bellicose remarks and increased “defense” spending are disturbingly reminiscent of the 1930s, with an Imperial Japan overrunning Korea, China and Indochina.

The U.S. Air Force also flew two nuclear-capable B-52 bombers through China’s ADIZ the day after it was announced, despite the Chinese Ministry of National Defense warning of “defensive emergency measures,” according to Time magazine.

The ultimate source of these tensions is that China and America seek to expand their influence in the region in order to attain hegemonic control over natural resources and markets.

At the same time, nationalist sentiment is whipped up to divert public attention from expanding chasms between the haves and have-nots in each country.

Experts and advisors know that the risk of a “miscalculation” that could lead to a military conflict only increases with each belligerent move by Washington, Tokyo and Beijing. No one taken seriously in these capitals, however, advocates de-escalation. The American, Japanese and Chinese ruling circles have no antiwar contingency and are leading the world to catastrophe.