Abe called Biden's visit "timely," which it was. He described "the security environment in the Asia-Pacific region" as "increasingly severe." And it is.
Biden and Xi have meetings with photo ops. Good diplomatic guests, on what was touted as a friendly meet and greet, don't scold their hosts, at least not too overtly. With that in mind, Biden avoided directly branding China's expanded ADIZ gambit as a grave diplomatic error. Still, at a subsequent news conference, the vice-president lamented the "risks of miscalculation" in Asia. His palpable innuendo provides Beijing with a diplomatic line of retreat.
But did Beijing really miscalculate?
For decades, China has been expanding its perimeter, with re-asserting historical Chinese rights to territory as the reason, or excuse. China used it in 1950 when it invaded Tibet. In 1962, China drove India from disputed Himalayan territory. In the 1970s, China renewed claims to islands held by Vietnam and seized them. Then China began producing maps of the South China Sea extending its maritime borders -- lots of provocative dotted lines. Now Chinese and Filipino ships clash over disputed seas.
China, ultimately diplomatic, backs its dotted line claims with military muscle -- and barbed wire.
With Japan and South Korea, China faces tougher opponents, so the extended barbed wire hides behind the label "defense." Yes, miscalculation may be Beijing's tactical excuse. But including South Korea was definitely part of the message. Beijing is telling Washington that future relations hinge on the U.S. accepting extended Chinese hegemony in Asian waters. If that brings a grimace to Joe Biden's photo op face, so be it.
Austin Bay is the author of three novels. His third novel, The Wrong Side of Brightness, was published by Putnam/Jove in June 2003. He has also co-authored four non-fiction books, to include A Quick and Dirty Guide to War: Third Edition (with James Dunnigan, Morrow, 1996).
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