China, Japan continue to be at oddsThe commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific said Thursday that tensions between China and Japan are likely to grow unless the two sides talk to each other.
The two Asian powers are at loggerheads over remote islands that are administered by Japan but also claimed by China.
Beijing has also been angered by a recent visit by Japan’s prime minister to a controversial war shrine.
Adm. Samuel Locklear told a news conference that “the risk calculation can grow” when two large powers have a disagreement but aren’t talking to each other and when there’s no clear resolution in sight.
Washington’s treaty obligations to its ally Japan mean it could be sucked into a conflict over the islands, known as Senkaku by Japan and Diayou by China.
Locklear said the U.S. has to continue to encourage restraint and professionalism by the two nations’ maritime security forces operating around the islands, and hope for a diplomatic solution.
“In many cases, those are young naval officers or young civilian mariners who are out there” making decisions, Locklear said.
China’s assertive behavior in pursuing its territorial claims has rattled its neighbors and raised the stakes as its military build-up challenges decades of U.S. predominance in the Asia-Pacific.
Locklear said the U.S. and China have made some progress in forging military ties, but he criticized China’s conduct during a near-collision between their warships in the South China Sea in December.
The Dec. 5 incident involving USS Cowpens and a Chinese naval ship was “unnecessary,” Locklear said, attributing it to “unprofessional” conduct on the part of the Chinese, or a “lack of experience.”