Mending fences

The first state visit by a Japanese leader to China in seven years suggest that the two countries, which allegedly have deep-seated mutual animosity, are in the process of strengthening ties:

What Happened: China and Japan signed multiple agreements intended to strengthen bilateral ties during the first day of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s official visit to China, the South China Morning Post reported Oct. 26. Both countries will cooperate on roughly 50 third-country infrastructure projects and agreed to resume currency swaps. Additionally, they will further discuss joint East China Sea energy cooperation and China’s lifting of food import restrictions following the nuclear disaster at Fukushima.

Why It Matters: Both China and Japan are recalibrating their strategies toward each other as they look to hedge against uncertainties as well as increasing trade protectionism from the United States.

This makes sense; as the neoliberal world order falls apart, regional trade blocs will emerge and solidify, and Japan and China, with their proximity and shared Confucian heritage, can be expected to align more closely.

Stratfor argues, however, that any Sino-Japanese rapprochement is complicated by China’s maritime ambitions, which clash with Japan’s interests as an island nation. Japan is also expanding its activities in the South China Sea, recently sending a submarine to conduct drills there for the first time. The duo may need to remain frenemies for a while.

Playing chicken in the South China Sea

How close did a Chinese warship approach a US Navy destroyer in the South China Sea before the latter swerved out of the way? This close:

USS Decatur China

USS Decatur (left) and PRC Warship 170 (Source)

From maritime industry website gCaptain:

The U.S. Navy confirmed the incident on Tuesday, accusing China’s navy of conducting an “unsafe and unprofessional maneuver” that nearly led to a collision as the U.S. destroyer was underway “in the vicinity” of Gaven Reef in the Spratly Islands on Sunday, September 30.

According to a Navy spokesman, during the incident, the Chinese warship “approached within 45 yards of Decatur’s bow, after which Decatur maneuvered to prevent a collision.”

As was reported over the weekend, the USS Decatur on Sunday conducted the U.S. Navy’s latest freedom of navigation operation in the South China Sea, coming within 12 nautical miles of the Gaven and Johnson Reefs claimed by China.

China issued a statement Tuesday accusing the U.S. of violating its “indisputable sovereignty” over the South China Sea islands.

Dangerous times.