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Monday, December 9, 2013

China’s game of chicken -- By Brahma Chellaney, The Washington Times

 (Illustration by Alexander Hunter, The Washington Times)

Beijing’s creeping aggression signals a challenge to U.S. presence in the Asian Pacific 

Illustration by Alexander Hunter for The Washington TimesChina's recent declaration of an air-defense identification zone extending to territories it does not control is just the latest example of its jurisdictional creep that reflects a larger strategy to supplant the United States as the pre-eminent power in Asia. Yet President Obama's administration has responded to China's aggression with words of cautious criticism, but no castigatory step, not even delaying Vice President Joe Biden's Beijing visit. China gave no ground to Mr. Biden during his Dec. 4-5 trip.

Worse still, with its advisory to U.S. airlines to respect China's new air-defense identification zone, Washington has opened a rift with ally Japan at a time when the imperative is for presenting a united front against an escalatory act that even Mr. Biden admits is "a unilateral attempt to change the status quo in the East China Sea," causing "significant apprehension in the region."

Japan has asked its carriers to ignore China's demand for advance notification of flights even if they are merely transiting the new zone and not heading toward Chinese airspace. Washington is signaling that if Beijing backed away from this unusual demand, it may be willing to live with the Chinese air-defense identification zone.

Let's be clear: At stake in the East China Sea are not just some flyspeck islands, but regional power balance, a rules-based order, freedom of navigation of the skies and seas, and access to maritime resources, including seabed minerals. If China gets its way, the path to a Sino-centric Asia would open.

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