If a war breaks out on Trump’s watch it will have its genesis in the administration of the most cowardly and poltroonish man to have ever occupied the presidency: Barack Obama.
For eight long years Obama’s foreign policy revolved around placating our enemies and scaring the living Hell out of our allies with his fecklessness. Nowhere was this more evident than in the South China Sea where several US allies — Japan, South Korea, the Philippines — and some other small countries, like Vietnam, are being bullied into submission by China. In the past few months the Philippines has suspended military cooperation with the United States over its uncertainty about our intentions and China even hijacked a US submersible in international waters.
China is creating geographical facts by constructing artificial islands in order to create a territorial claim for all of the South China Sea. Perhaps, though, one of the most provocative things it has done is directly challenge Japan’s sovereignty. The territory in question are the Senkaku Islands. Here China, as it has done in Tibet, has constructed specious historical claims out of whole cloth and is essentially daring the international community to call bullsh** on its bullsh**. China is trying to bully Japan into relinquishing control of these island to China and has taken to intentionally violating airspace and territorial waters to keep tensions high.
Secretary of Defense James Mattis is on a visit to the Pacific rim and took the opportunity to publicly state, or rather restate, the United States position on the Senkaku Islands:
U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis reaffirmed the U.S.’s commitment to its defense treaty with Japan in a meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe here on Friday. A Japanese official who attended the meeting said Mattis confirmed that the treaty extended to the Senkaku Islands — which China claims and calls the Diaoyu — in Okinawa Prefecture.
“I want there to be no misunderstanding during the transition in Washington that we stand firmly, 100%, shoulder to shoulder with you and the Japanese people,” Mattis said at the start of the meeting.
Citing provocative actions by North Korea and “other challenges,” the defense secretary said, “I want to make certain that Article 5 of our mutual defense treaty is understood to be as real to us today as it was a year ago, five years ago — and as it will be a year, and 10 years, from now.”
Under Article 5, the U.S. is required to defend territories under Japanese administrative control. Mattis also said the U.S. was committed to providing “extended deterrence” to its allies. Extended deterrence includes protecting allies under the U.S.’s nuclear umbrella.
Abe said he was convinced that, with the help of new U.S. President Donald Trump and Mattis, the U.S. and Japan could demonstrate to the world their “unwavering alliance.”
According to Stars & Stripes, Mattis also reaffirmed the right of US Navy and merchant marine ships to operate in the South China Sea regardless of China’s claims while at the same time seeming rule out any large scale deployment to assert freedom of movement.
It is important to note that Mattis made those statements while official Chinese media were demanding that he say nothing.
What we’ve seen in the past week is interesting. Trump has laid down a series of markers with Iran and with Russia. In this trip, Mattis has done the same with China and North Korea. Eventually, this administration is going to be challenged and then we’ll see what happens.