News

Japan Struggles to Maintain Pacific Influence as China's Might Grows

Japan is hosting a two-day summit of presidents and prime ministers of Pacific island states. The Pacific islands hold strategic attraction for many regional powers.

Japan says the aim of its fourth Pacific Island Forum Summit is to enhance sustainable development and security in the region. But, behind the scenes, there is growing competition for influence with the 14 nations that are small and remote, but hold strategic appeal to major powers.

Japanese Foreign Ministry spokesman has hinted this is causing some concern in Tokyo.

"[The] Pacific island area should not be toyed around [with] by any strong power surrounding the area," he said.

The main strong power is China, which hosted its own Pacific islands summit in Fiji recently. China sees potential military and diplomatic value in the islands.

Analyst Peter Wagner of Hawaii's East-West Center on policy studies says Beijing's diplomatic agenda is closely linked to its rivalry with Taiwan.

"Taiwan wants to be recognized at the U.N. China is determined not to let that happen," he said.

The Pacific islands are home to only one percent of the world's population, but, together, they control six percent of the votes in the U.N. General Assembly.

Taiwan, which has been ruled separately since the Chinese civil war ended in 1949, has used its economic might to win diplomatic recognition from a few dozen small and poor nations, including, for example, the Solomon Islands. China wants to roll back all diplomatic recognition for Taiwan, which it sees as a renegade province.

But, beyond this issue, China's growing military is looking to extend its sphere of influence.

And these Pacific micro-states have geographical importance for any powerful navy. They comprise thousands of mostly uninhabited islands, spread over 30 million square kilometers, covering a quarter of the Earth's surface.

The U.S. military is also concerned over China's rising diplomatic and military influence in the Pacific.

"We watch all the militaries in the region very closely," said Lieutenant General Bruce Wright, the commander of U.S. Forces in Japan. "We have seen - and the report just came out of the Pentagon - an increased modernization of Chinese military forces, and, certainly, we have seen some growth in the funding of Chinese military forces."

East Asia expert Kent Calder, with Johns Hopkins University in the United States, says the world may be about to witness a new version of the so-called Great Game, when the British Empire competed with Imperial Russia in the 19th century.

He sees China, with submarine-launched ballistic missiles, known as SLBMs, moving from a defensive posture, known as brown water, to project its military into the blue water of the mid-Pacific and Indian Oceans.

"We do indeed have a Great Game that extends far beyond the region," he said. "From a strategic point of view, over time, as China's SLBM program  expands, or its navy moves beyond brown water to something greater, relations with the Pacific islands will be [increasingly] important."

An official of the Chinese Embassy in Tokyo, who did not want to be named, told VOA that such concerns are unfounded. He says reports of China planning a deep-water navy are rumors being spread by the U.S. and Indian militaries.

Some experts suggest China is just looking to fill a gap created by Japan and the United States, which have been cutting back aid to the Pacific Islands.


Steve Herman

A veteran journalist, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’i
X
July 29, 2015 9:34 PM
Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Scouts' Decision on Gays Meets Acceptance in Founder's Hometown

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.

VOA Blogs