There is a Chinese idiom “lose the axe and suspect the neighbor” that reflects how jumping to conclusions can lead to an innocent person being the target of unfounded suspicions.
That mindset is exactly what Japan is adopting in considering the deployment of a surface-to-ship missile unit on the main island in Okinawa’s island chain. According to a report in the Asahi Shimbun early this week, the move is to strengthen the country’s defense and serve as a check to Chinese naval vessels passing through the strategic Miyako Strait.
The Japan Self-Defense Forces already plan to deploy anti-ship missiles on several other small islands near the key waterway. The latest deployment schedule will enable it to build a missile system that can cover the entire Miyako Strait, the main gateway of the Chinese navy to the Pacific.
Tokyo claims the deployments are necessitated by the increasing number of times Chinese naval ships sail through the strait, “two to five times” each year since 2008 through 2016.
It is a cunning old hand. It is actually professing indignance by making believe the knavery is of another.
Under international law, there are no restrictions on Chinese naval ships sailing in the open sea. To see the normal operations by the Chinese navy as a security threat is an overreaction that says more about Japan than China.
As it is now the world’s largest trading nation and second-largest economy, China’s economic interests that require protection have increased rapidly overseas during the past decades. In such a context, that the Chinese navy is going out is natural and something that Japan and other countries will have to get used to.
Tokyo and others cannot draw a line in the sea, as they seem to believe. Instead, they will be totally misjudging China’s resolve if they think the Chinese navy shall forever be contained in its adjacent waters semi-enclosed by a series of island chains and archipelagic nations. Provocative steps such as those taken by Japan to counter China’s move to embrace blue water will not serve their purpose.
Chinese naval vessels sail outside their home waters on goodwill visits, and to engage in humanitarian and security operations. They are doing nothing out of the ordinary that Tokyo and others should take exception to.