Chinese Challenge: Australia’s Japan Choice

China’s steady economic growth has been accompanied by growing assertiveness over control of resources and territory in the East China Sea and the South China Sea that unnerves neighbors. Most Asian nations do not see any option other than a closely entwined future with China and criticize Beijing with caution. Australia under conservative Prime Minister Tony Abbott, in advancing defense cooperation with Japan, is bucking that trend, a stance that poses long-term strategic challenges, explains Evelyn Goh of the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre of the Australian National University. China is, by far, the lead trade partner for Australia and Japan. China denounces any attempt at containment of its ambitions. Yet if Japan and Australia, both US allies, pursue ongoing defense partnerships, that marks a sweeping line through the Pacific Ocean. US support would still be required in dealing with Chinese challenges but Asian nations increasingly question US commitment. The unease contributes to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s efforts to end Japan’s constitutional restraints on deployment of armed forces, thus contributing to a spiraling cycle of insecurity. – YaleGlobal