SPEAKING FREELY Japan's dispute diplomacy targets China
By Nidhi Prasad
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Every region in the world today is locked in a heated war of words and strewn diplomacy. Barry Buzan's Regional Security Complex theory (of a region with security convergence and divergences) is analogous to a pressure cooker of all sorts, with overlapping and undermining tensions.
East Asia is not excused from this predicament. Sovereignty over the Senkaku/Diayou islands is increasing source of tension
between China and Japan in their official 40th year of friendship. It reminds of the the Confucian saying "one mountain cannot harbor two tigers". A policy struggle of accommodation versus aggression by the Japanese in the light of China's "peaceful rise" is troubling Japanese investors and policy makers.
The region currently faces a string of asymmetric challenges that needs to be dealt with diplomatically. The islands dispute has been the elephant in the room for most talks between China and Japan in several multilateral frameworks.
While the Chinese have wooed Indonesia and Malaysia, the Japanese on the other hand have strengthened ties with the Philippines. Japan and the Philippines have had a common history in terms of being a security ally of and offering permanent basing rights to the United States.
Earlier this year, Ichita Yamamoto, the state affairs minister of Okinawa (presently one of the largest US military bases in the Asia-Pacific) visited bases in the Philippines under the pretext of fostering Japanese-Philippines ties. Japan has promised the Philippines patrol vessels to secure its maritime quarters from any intrusions.  This strategic bonhomie is prevalent with other Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN members as the Shinzo Abe government hopes to foster shared democratic values and secure sea lines of communication.
Japan has also stretched out its hand to India, with the aims of bolstering economic and strategic ties. The Delhi-Mumbai freight and industrial corridors could welcome Japanese investment and a civil nuclear cooperation agreement is possible despite Japan's apprehension over concluding a nuclear pact with a non-signatory member of the Non-Proliferation Treaty.
There is also talk of the Indian navy and air force requesting Japanese US-2 amphibious aircraft.
While Japan is involved extensively in economy, energy and strategic sectors across the globe, its engagements with India and the Philippines are directly linked to the Japan's dispute diplomacy. While Japan has a lot to offer to India, it also has a lot to gain in terms of power status and strategic support. Similarly with the Philippines, Japan shares common experience in terms of countering maritime threats to sovereignty.
As Japan seeks to revitalize its economy, reform its domestic situation and reaffirm its position in East Asia, the neighboring tiger does not seem pleased over this policy strategy. Meanwhile, the US government shutdown has contributed to the lack of funds for President Barack Obama to carry forth his "pivot policy", and he failed to make it to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Bali. If "basing diplomacy" was one of the features of the post-World War II and post-Cold War years, this era is epitomized by economic diplomacy.
The gradual power transitions and presence of extra-regional powers also contribute to maritime disputes. East Asia is dealing with several conflicts of opinions over military-related and ideational power politics.
There needs to be a regional framework in East Asia to deal with the issues between these major powers alone so that a spill over effect of security divergences is avoided. While nations like India appear to benefit economically from the Sino-Japanese maritime row, dispute diplomacy might be prove counter-productive for many.
Speaking Freely is an Asia Times Online feature that allows guest writers to have their say.Please click hereif you are interested in contributing. Articles submitted for this section allow our readers to express their opinions and do not necessarily meet the same editorial standards of Asia Times Online's regular contributors.
Nidhi Prasad is a post-graduate student at the Department of Geopolitics and International Relations in Manipal University and a Non-Resident Fellow of the Center for Air Power Studies, New Delhi, India.