East Asia getting dangerous
The multilateral rows between China, Taiwan and Japan have been heating up over the past few days. Leaders on all sides are making mistakes that continue to aggravate the problem, with Chen Shui-bian's pointless abolotion of the National Unification Council; the discovery that China is stockpiling missiles faster than previously expected; the North Koreans shooting off missiles for no apparent reason, sparking a joint US-Japanese test of a missile defense system; and now the Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso calling Taiwan a "country", implying that it is soverign from China.
Meanwhile, in the US, John Warner, is threatening to withold American assistance from Taiwan if they continue to pursue an admittedly aggressively independent foreign policy. Warner's comments, which are equal parts bluster and disingenuity, underscore the central problem with East Asia: Bush completely lacks any plans to deal with the entire powder keg.
Does it make sense for GOP Senators to be making foreign policy on their own? Not so much. But it makes even less sense when the White House is silent on these critical steps that have been taken over the past few weeks. Something is shaking in North Korea, Japan and China continue to drag ties to a new low over territory rights in the waters between them, and Taiwan is stirring things up as well. And there is no sign that the US is willing to even begin confronting these problems.
Bush is either too scared to act, or too dumb to know what to do, (or, likely a combination of both). But in Asia, we don't have to be like Mike Mandelbaum's Goliath, threatening with weapons and towering over the other players.
What we need right now is a simple, easy, slow-paced talk-down of the respective leaders. The US needs to show some leadership in the region by dealing with these problems before they get out of hand. A single issue here isn't enough to put the region over the edge, but a conglomeration of them all is likely to do so. With Taiwan declaring "Anti-Aggression" days, China calling Japan's PM "stupid" and "immoral", it is clear that the status quo will no longer suffice. Let's hope that someone decides to play diplomat before these problems become unsolvable.