Japan Pledges Military Aid To Vietnam As Ties With China Deteriorate

During a recent visit, Japan PM Shinzo Abe pledged patrol boats to Vietnam to support its “maritime law enforcement capability” as the dispute with China over territories in the South China Sea continues to grow.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (R) and his Vietnamese counterpart Nguyen Xuan Phuc (L) met in Hanoi, Vietnam on January 16th. Credit – Reuters/Luong Thai Linh/Pool

As True Activist recently reported, Japan’s decades-old practice of pacificism is quickly becoming a thing of the past. Japan’s current Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, seems intent on turning his nation back into a military power, especially considering the approval of his record-breaking, ¥5.1 trillion (~$44 billion) defense budget. Apparently not content with bolstering their own military, Japan is now extending military aid to other nations. During a recent visit, Abe announced this Monday that Japan is pledging six new patrol boats to Vietnam. Abe said that move was intended to show his nation’s strong support for Vietnam’s enhancement of “its maritime law enforcement capability.”

However, the pledge is not just a simple exchange of patrol boats. Vietnam is one of the few nations, Japan included, that has displayed a desire to oppose China. As Reuters notes, “Abe’s stop in Vietnam completes a tour through an arc of a region where Japan stakes a leadership claim in the face of China’s growing dominance and uncertainty over what policy change Donald Trump will bring as U.S. president.” Indeed, Japan’s own military build-up has been largely motivated by its disputes with China over a small group of islands that lie in the waters between the two nation states. These islands have been the site of several confrontations between Chinese and Japanese military forces in recent years, with Japan “scrambling” Chinese jets a total of 407 times just in 2016.

Yet, it is another set of islands that are a source of a much larger dispute between China and rival nations. A series of islands in the South China Sea has caused tensions to rise throughout the region and has even brought China into conflict with incoming President Donald Trump, who has implied that he opposes the “One China” policy. His comments regarding this, as well as the South China Sea islands, led China to fly a nuclear bomber over the disputed territories as a message to “ignorant child” Trump. China stands accused of militarizing some of the islands it has claimed and some nations, such as Vietnam, have also accused them of occupying islands that legally belong to other countries. Not surprisingly, Abe noted during his recent visit to Vietnam that “the issue of the South China Sea is directly linked to regional peace and stability and is a concern of the entire international community.”

Abe’s concern and his subsequent pledge of patrol boats to Vietnam comes at an unusual time. Just days ago, Vietnam – despite its recent track record of antagonism with China over the disputed territories – pledged to work with China in a peaceful, diplomatic manner in order to resolve the island disputes. Considering that Japan is strongly allied with the US, which has been provoking the divide in the region, it seems highly likely that Abe’s most recent move is intended to tempt Vietnam’s government into backing away from diplomatic resolution with China and align itself, once again, with the West.

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