The East China Sea: The Place Where Sino-U.S. Conflict Could Occur

The East China Sea: The Place Where Sino-U.S. Conflict Could Occur

The East China Sea: The Place Where Sino-U.S. Conflict Could Occur

Click here to read the latest AFPI lead article from Rear Admiral (Ret.) Michael McDevitt.

Michael McDevitt is currently a senior fellow at CNA Strategic Studies. He is a former vice president at the Center for Naval Analyses (CNA), a Washington, D.C., area nonprofit research and analysis company. He has been involved in U.S. security policy and strategy in the Asia-Pacific for the last 20 years, in both government policy positions and, following his retirement from the U.S. Navy, for the last decade as an analyst, author, and commentator. He is a graduate of the University of Southern California; Georgetown University, where he received a master’s degree in U.S.–East Asian diplomatic history; and the National War College. In his final active duty assignment, he returned to the National War College as its Commandant. During his Navy career, he held four at-sea commands, including an aircraft carrier battlegroup. He was the director of the East Asia Policy office for the Secretary of Defense during the George H.W. Bush administration. He also served for two years as Director for Strategy, War Plans and Policy (J-5) for U.S. CINCPAC.

Abstract: The East China Sea remains a Sino-U.S. hotspot. The welcome diminishment of the possibility of an East China Sea conflict over Taiwan has been offset by the emergence of Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands dispute between Japan and China as the new Sino-U.S. flashpoint. The United States could become militarily involved if China and Japan come to blows over sovereignty. Washington officially takes no position on the disputed sovereignty claim but because the uninhabited islands are under Japanese administrative control, the Mutual Security Treaty with Japan would apply. There is no obvious road to resolution since Tokyo argues that its claim is “indisputable” and, as a result, does not want to discuss the sovereignty question, while China does everything short of actually seizing the islands to demonstrate that sovereignty is, indeed, in dispute. The possibility of an accident between the two countries’ coast guards or air forces is real.

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