Dr. Alession Patalano, whose presentation at Temple University Japan I was unable to attend, has written a brief but cogent article for The Asahi Shimbun on what to expect in the Sino-Japanese game of feint and riposte in the East China Sea:
"While war seems unlikely, East China Sea issues are here to stay"
Patalano's assessment is both encouraging and discouraging. On the positive side, he notes that the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN), despite its build out, remains deficient in training and tactics, making the chance of the PLA's putting the PLAN to the test in a direct staredown between the two countries unlikely. On the negative, he admits that if the non-military actors, particularly the Japan Coast Guard and any one of China's plethora of maritime constabulary units clash, the escalation curve is dangerously flat.
The easiest way for the Government of Japan to get across the point that it intends to hold on to its uninhabited islands is to dial down the construction of Maritime Self Defense Forces surface vessels in favor of a crash program, easily seen by satellites, of JCG vessels. That and coming down hard upon the Ground Self Defense Forces to learn once and for all that Japan is an island nation in need of marines or marines-like units, not armored ground units -- a process which we know is underway, if on a minute scale, thanks to the video that was released yesterday of 40 members of the GSDF taking part in an amphibious assault with a unit of the 2,200 member-strong U.S. Marines force currently engaged in training maneuvers on Guam. (J - usual warning as to link rot applies)
Not that the development of serious combined amphibious and airborne assault capability will be a popular decision. My morning paper, for example, has an essay in it from military analyst Maeda Tetsuo where he argues that Japan's developing a marines force will be unconstitutional.
On the lighter side of what is a rather tense game going on in the waters around the Senkakus, Tiago Alexandre Fernandes Maurício of Japan Foreign Policy Observatory has posted the latest bit of topical animated lunacy from the busy geniuses at Taiwan's New Media.