Button Push from War

Seth York | Lindenlink Reporter

On January 30th, the weather at Lindenwood University hit a high of 54 degrees.  A pleasant day in January, especially since the next day it dropped down to a high of 33. You probably don’t remember what you were doing that day. It was a Wednesday. You may have had class, or work. You may have laughed, or cried. Yet little did you know that on the other side of the planet, a possible World War III was a mere button push away.

Technically speaking, it happened after our Wednesday, since it occurred west of the International Date line, in the East China Sea. The tension arose over the Japanese Senkaku Islands, which have more in common with rocks than a tropical paradise. The Chinese claim them the Diaoyu Islands;  Japan gained these small islands, which are far closer to Taiwan and China than Japan, during the First Sino-Japanese War of 1894-1895 with Imperial China.

However, according to the 1951 Mutual Defense treaty with the United States, America may be required to defend help Japan defend the islands. The question of whether or not the US government would was almost answered on January 30th.

A Chinese frigate (a Jiangwei II-class frigate, to be exact) entered the disputed waters to find a Japanese destroyer awaiting their arrival. The ships were a mere 3 km apart, when the Chinese frigate pointed it’s guns and anti-ship missiles at the Japanese destroyer and “painted” the vessel. This means that the Chinese used a laser guidance equipment that would help guide their missiles.  The Japanese responded by manning their battle stations and targeting the opposing frigate. However, cooler heads must have prevailed, because both of the ships backed down.

The danger did not dissipate, however. Soon after, a Japanese naval helicopter was “painted” by Chinese fire control radar, after Chinese aircraft had intruded over waters claimed by Japan. The Chinese People’s Liberation Army put their armed forces on high alert and moved warplanes and missile batteries to the coast of the East China Sea. Soon after, a US AWACS radar aircraft went on station to monitor the islands.

A war between China, Japan, and potentially the United States (and whoever else after that) wouldn’t be beneficial for any of the nations involved. Japan’s position to defend the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands is a difficult one. The closet airbase is in Okinawa, 500 kilometers away. Their jets could reach the islands, but couldn’t stay long with full bomb loads. Japan’s renown defense structure was built to fight off the Soviet Union, which has not been around for 22 years.

However, China’s nearest airbase is on the coast not far from islands. Also, China’s offensive forces are designed with an invasion of Taiwan and a confrontation with the US 7th Fleet in mind. Their long-term offense forces are better designed for confrontations like this.

It is a delicate situation, which lots at stake for a few large rocks sticking out of the ocean (whether or not there is oil nearby). It is a bit reminiscent of the situation leading up to War War I, when on the 28th of June, 1914, the Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife were assassinated in Bosnia. This event triggered a complicated series of alliances and treaties (among other things), throwing Europe into war. That war led directly to War War II. The order of the world completely changed. Let’s hope and pray it does not happen again.

(This article was heavily dependent on the piece Eric Margolis wrote on February 9th this year.)