What would the US do if war were to break out over Diaoyutais?

In an article for the Washington-based National Interest magazine on June 21, US defense expert Harry Kazianis laid out a possible a scenario involving Japan and China clashing over the airspace of the disputed Diaoyutai islands (Senkaku to Japan, Diaoyu to China) in the East China Sea to analyze whether the United States would be ready for such a conflict.

The scenario takes place on Mar. 1, 2015, Kazianis wrote, noting that China has already instituted daily non-naval maritime patrols around the disputed islands while its aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, and other warships have conducted exercises only 50 miles away from the islands since February.

According to the scenario, “the Japanese plane collides with one of the Chinese fighters. Both aircraft crash into the ocean, with no survivors.” “Just 72 hours later, a group of twenty Chinese nationals land on one of the disputed islands under the cover of darkness.”

“As Japanese naval forces come within 20 miles of the islands a Chinese J-10 fighter jet buzzes the task force,” said Kanzianis. “On its second pass it comes dangerously close to a Japanese destroyer. In a perceived act of self-defense, the destroyer shoots down the aircraft.”

The People’s Liberation Army would then fire a DF-21 anti-ship missile against the incoming Japanese task force as a warning shot, according to the scenario, with the missile hitting the ocean just 10 miles away from the Japanese vessel. Undeterred, the Japanese forces would press ahead with the PLA launching a massive saturation strike with ballistic and cruise missiles against the Japanese task force. Three ships would be hit with heavy loss of life, Kazianis said.

Kazianis continued that Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe would urgently phone US president Obama to “formally requesting America’s help under the terms of the US-Japan alliance — a 3am call no president would ever wish to receive. War in Asia seems imminent.”

“Considering the [US] president’s limited political capital, with only two-and-a-half years left in office, would he make the case under less than clear-cut circumstances for a conflict which many would say is not in US national interests?” asked Kanzianis, “To put the question differently: short of an unambiguous Chinese invasion of the Senkakus, would he back Japan unconditionally? Or more broadly: under what circumstances would America come to Asia’s rescue?”

Kanzianis said that US national interests are at stake if the status quo is washed away in Asia, while suggesting that the US must work to rebalance its foreign policy towards Asia. He added that US allies in the region must understand the military limitations of the US and work out their own policies to avoid such a scenario in the near future.

Full article: What would the US do if war were to break out over Diaoyutais? (Want China Times)

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