The Business Times

China plays into Japan's hands with oil rig move

Published Wed, May 14, 2014 · 10:00 PM
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CONSUMMATE though China can be at times in its diplomatic skills, it appears to have played straight into the hands of Japan by the timing of its move to station a massive deepwater oil drilling rig close to a tiny island in the South China Sea claimed by both China and Vietnam.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was scarcely back in Tokyo from a trip to Brussels where he signed a cooperation agreement with Nato to resist any attempt by outside powers to claim territory by force when Beijing presented both parties with an apparent attempt to do just that. Not that Nato is likely to take up arms against China over the stationing of the rig in disputed waters, or over territorial disputes involving the Paracel and Spratly Islands, but China's latest action does allow Japan to point the finger and say "we told you so" to Nato and others. Beijing's timing was infelicitous too in that the stationing of a lumbering and highly conspicuous oil rig off Vietnam coincided more or less with the holding of an Asean leaders' summit in Myanmar. Predictably, the Asean leaders protested at China's action.

Mr Abe has spent a good deal of time and energy playing up the "China threat" both domestically and internationally since his Liberal Democratic Party-led government swept to power at the end of 2012. But his success in making China appear as the villain had been limited so far.

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