Abstract

Much analysis on Asian strategic challenges facing the U.S. has justifiably emphasized the South China Sea (SCS). This has also been reflected in 2016 presidential campaign debate on the SCS as an emerging area of U.S. foreign and national security policy concern. The East China Sea (ECS) is at least as important for the strategic interests of the U.S. and its allies given the tension between China and Japan over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands, potential energy resources in this body of water, increasing defense spending by adjacent geographic powers, the area’s importance as a maritime international trade route, and the possibility that communication failures and miscalculation by interested powers could result in military conflict. This work will examine the historical background of this conflict, international legal issues and claims, public opinion within China and Japan, the response of U.S. presidential administrations to this conflict, and how the U.S. Congress has examined it and sought to influence U.S. diplomatic and military responses to this event, and includes recommendations for U.S. and allied military action against China if war occurs. It concludes by making recommendations for the U.S. to maintain candid communications with China, support its strategic interests and those of our allies against Chinese assertiveness, and how to justify an assertive geopolitical stance to domestic and international opinion.

Keywords

geopolitics, East China Sea, Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands, China, Japan, United States, U.S. Congress, Air Defense Identification Zone, Western Pacific Ocean, military preparedness

Date of this Version

6-24-2016