Thursday, April 24, 2014

So says the commander-in-chief...

The commander-in-chief of the world's most powerful military forces has finally said it (yesterday, April 23 and reported today, April 24):

Two points stand out:
* Japan is a treaty ally and the relevant provisions of this "an attack on an ally is an attack on us" alliance treaty requires US military intervention;
* Very importantly, Japan effectively administers the islands in dispute (Senkakus to the Japanese and Diaoyus to the Chinese).

Expect China to test the waters (it has, perhaps in preemptive anticipation, already set up its contentious Air Defence Identification Zone over the East China Sea), and to exploit any unintended consequences. And how will other US treaty allies in East Asia react?

For one, will South Korea now be emboldened in its dispute with Japan over islands it calls Dokto (Takeshima to the Japanese)? Both Japan and South Korea are US treaty allies. But Seoul has effective administration over those islands. Will it now demand that the US specifically say Washington will come to its aid militarily if both of the East Asian neighbours were to exchange fire over the Doktos/Takeshimas?

For another, the Philippines seems now to have been left in a quandary. It is (a) a US treaty ally but (b) it is not in effective administration of any of the South China Sea islands it claims vis-a-vis China. True, it has a small detachment of marines on one island -- Second Thomas Shoal --  but Chinese ships regularly harass attempts to resupply those poor beleaguered souls. The US has all along been vague about any support for Manila in the event of an outbreak of conflict over the disputed South China Sea islands but now the picture seems clearer: no action.

Manila's despair to date (prior to Mr Obama's announcement) is reflected in this newspaper article:

Is Beijing slowly swallowing the South China Sea?


One other significant story reported today is Australia's decision to buy more F-35 jets:

Expect the US to increasingly demand (if it is not already doing so) that certain treaty allies and strategic partners (read: countries like Israel and Singapore) sign on to purchases or additional purchases (as the case may be) of this expensive jet fighter. This will be seen as membership of an exclusive club, the benefits of which are presumably touted as two-way: buy the F-35 and the US is then beholden to ensure that this secrets-packed jet does not fall into unfriendly hands.


What did they say?
(continued from yesterday)

What steely eyes!
What grim jaws!
What a firm wagging finger!
Um, what words??

But they were enough for Ukraine to screw its courage to the sticking place:

Meanwhile, local political commentator Siew Kum Hong seems to have given reporters a tongue-in-cheek quote:


Finally, just what is this TODAY reader thinking of when he penned this letter?...

I would not have published it.

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