"The islands, called Senkaku in Japanese and Diaoyu in Chinese, are located in the East China Sea. Japan has controlled the chain for more than 100 years, and this week officially purchased the islands – which it had been renting – from private owners." Image Source: Kyodo/AP via CBC.
Despite the endless percolating trouble that plagues the Middle East, there are reminders that oil's domination of the world stage is always closely followed by nuclear concerns. One reminder comes with the fact that - despite 2012's 9/11 Islamic furor - American military attentions are moving toward the Asia-Pacific region:
Recently, I saw Fareed Zakaria interview the well-known historian of the Middle East, Bernard Lewis. Lewis remarked languidly:The Obama administration is forging closer defense ties to countries near China, including India, Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia and Singapore; repositioning troops, planes and ships; and stepping up aid in the South Pacific to offset attention from Beijing.
Zakaria responded: "[I]t's a good thing you studied the Middle East while you did, when it was the cockpit of history."It was pointed out not long ago by an Arab committee that the total exports of the entire Arab world other than oil and gas amount to less than those of Finland. One small European country. Now that's a staggering statistic. It means, though, the economies depend entirely on oil. And this is true even in the countries which don't have oil because they depend on the others. And sooner or later, oil and gas will either be exhausted or superseded as the world -- the modern world turns to other sources of energy. And when that occurs, they will have nothing left. Now, one possibility is that they may develop alternative forms of economic activity. Another, more likely, is that the region will relapse into insignificance. ... I think the latter is more likely at the moment. ... America is clearly losing interest. Europe has some interest, but is unable to do much about it. And Russia was obviously unable to do much about it. I mean, the -- the superpowers of the second half of the 21st century would be India and China. They will be -- they will be the superpowers of the world contesting for world domination.
What drives this shift in focus to the Asia-Pacific? Perhaps it is Fukushima.
Chinese demonstrations against Japanese interests over the tiny uninhabited, seemingly unimportant bits of rock known as the Diaoyu or Senkaku islands are even provoking fears of war, apparently because, "[t]he uninhabited islands are in important sea lanes and the seabed nearby is thought to harbour valuable mineral resources." Really? Why would these countries risk $340 billion in trade over relative intangibles? Some have suggested that the Chinese government has encouraged its huge population of disaffected unmarried young men to attack Japanese interests on the Chinese mainland over this issue so that they can blow off steam. That seems odd, since the younger Chinese generations have more of an attachment to Japan's modern products.
Since the Fukushima disaster, Japan has been poking around disputed and undisputed islands around her main territory. She has run up against Russia (the Kurils and Sakhalin) and China. Presumably the Japanese are searching for dumping grounds for irradiated tsunami wreckage as well as Fukushima waste. No one knows what exactly has happened at Fukushima. MSM coverage or no MSM coverage, we can assume that governments with interests in the Asia-Pacific region are estimating the degree and spread of Fukushima's radioactive contamination.
So far, any talk of mass evacuation from Japan due to fallout has come up only via very dubious far right groups and weird, Russian-sourced Internet rumours. Nevertheless, if there are three China Syndromes at Fukushima (or even if there is only one), it could be that the country is environmentally compromised. In that case, Japan may endeavour to expand her territory, whether by peace or war. Or it may be that other powers in the region anticipate this outcome and are preemptively reacting, out of fear of any shift in the strategic balance of power in Asia.
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