Saturday, September 17, 2005

China's Nautical Powerplay

They're gonna rip it off
Taking their time right behind my back
And I'm talking to myself at night
Because I can't forget
Back and forth through my mind
Behind a cigarette
And the message coming from my eyes
Says leave it alone
--White Stripes


China sends a message to Koizumi on the eve of his new mandate:

TOKYO In a muscular display of its rising military and economic might, China deployed a fleet of five warships last week near a gas field in the East China Sea, a potentially resource-rich area that is disputed by China and Japan.

The ships, including a guided-missile destroyer, were spotted by a Japanese military patrol plane near the Chunxiao gas field, according to Japan's Maritime Self-Defense Forces. It is believed to be the first time that Chinese warships have been seen in that area.

Although the fleet's mission was unclear, its timing suggested that it was no coincidence. The warships appeared two days before the general election in Japan on Sunday and weeks before China is scheduled to start producing gas in the area, against strong Japanese protests.

In Japan, where the 12-day election campaign was exclusively focused on domestic issues, the warships were a sudden reminder of its most pressing outside challenge: China.

I think the mission was fairly obvious. 5 heavy duty warships cruising past a disputed oil field on the day of the Japanese election could only mean thing: Best wishes on your electoral success, neighbour!

This is an extremely touchy subject in Japan. Apparently, the islands that Japan claims gives them rights over these oilfields are uninhabited rocks that measure about 10 feet in diameter, and are hundreds of kilometers from the main islands. Nevertheless, Japan, in a bid to keep self-sufficient to some extent wants to protect the fields to maintain energy independence (sound familiar?).

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