Don't forget about the East China Sea

Article Highlights

  • Considerable attention has been paid to the significance of the South China Sea, but the East China Sea deserves equal attention

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  • The East China Sea is rife with contested territorial claims, military buildups and is of great geopolitical significance

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  • Disruption of free navigation in the East China Sea would affect China, Japan and South Korea, and could drag in Russia

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The East China Sea may be the most strategic location in all of Asia. While the media and policymakers have paid considerable attention to the geopolitical significance of the South China Sea, the East China Sea deserves equal attention. Like the South China Sea, it is rife with contested territorial claims, larger military buildups among the principal players of the region and a geopolitical significance that impinges even more directly on long-standing U.S. security commitments. It is a nexus of competition between Asia’s two great powers, China and Japan, and it is an area in which the United States plans to retain sufficient military presence to shape the maritime environment. Disruption of free navigation there would affect the economies of the three major countries in the region – China, Japan and South Korea – and could drag in Russia, which increasingly exports its natural resources through the East China Sea. Conflict in the East China Sea could trigger a tripwire effect, requiring the United States to increase the number of military forces that are forward stationed in Asia.

Don't forget about the East China Sea

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About the Author

 

Michael
Auslin
  • Michael Auslin is a resident scholar and the director of Japan Studies at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), where he studies Asian regional security and political issues.


    Before joining AEI, he was an associate professor of history at Yale University. A prolific writer, Auslin is a biweekly columnist for The Wall Street Journal Asia, which is distributed globally on wsj.com. His longer writings include the book “Pacific Cosmopolitans: A Cultural History of U.S.-Japan Relations” (Harvard University Press, 2011) and the study “Security in the Indo-Pacific Commons: Toward a Regional Strategy” (AEI Press, 2010). He was named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum, a Marshall Memorial Fellow by the German Marshall Fund, and a Fulbright and Japan Foundation Scholar.


    Auslin has a Ph.D. from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, an M.A. from Indiana University at Bloomington, and a B.S.F.S. from Georgetown University.


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    Email: michael.auslin@aei.org
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