Several earlier posts on this blog have highlighted the risk that China and Japan might come to blows over a few tiny, uninhabited islands known as the Senkaku in Japan and the Diaoyu in China. One pathway to war is inadvertent escalation as a result of both nations sending jet fighters over the disputed territory. As noted in an an article in yesterday’s New York Times:
In the past several months, both China and Japan have sent civilian maritime vessels to the waters around the uninhabited islands. On Jan. 10, China ordered a surveillance aircraft to fly near the area. In response, Japan scrambled F-15 fighter jets to take a look, and in response to the Japanese, the Chinese dispatched J-10 fighter jets.
The tit-for-tat moves have raised concerns that an accident could occur and lead to a dangerous cycle of retaliation.
Under a longstanding security treaty with Japan, the United States is obliged to defend the country, including the uninhabited islands, a position that Mrs. Clinton referred to at the news conference. She also repeated that Washington recognized that the islands were administered by Japan.
For its part, China insists that the islands belong to China, a claim that it says is supported by historical documents.
If war should break out, the US is on record as saying that its mutual security treaty with Japan extends to these islands, meaning the US would have to fight a nuclear-armed China.
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To read the earlier posts on this dispute, search this blog for occurrences of Senkaku.