China's provocation of Japan over the Senkaku Islands shows a need for Obama to be ready for a crisis in Asia. He must buck up Japan and send a clear signal to Bejing.
After nearly two years in office, President Obama remains untested as a commander in chief during a tense standoff – his own Cuban missile crisis, for instance, or Iranian hostage-taking, Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, or 9/11.
But he'd best prepare for such an encounter in Asia.
Last month, China bared its fangs at America’s chief Asian ally, Japan. Beijing appeared to precipitate a crisis with its weak neighbor when the captain of a Chinese fishing boat deliberately rammed two Japanese Coast Guard vessels near the Senkaku Islands.
For more than a century, Japan has had clear legal control of those rocky, uninhabited islands near Okinawa. But that has not stopped China from recently seeking ownership of them for offshore oil or to show everyone – especially the US Navy – who’s the new boss in Asian waters.
Beijing surprisingly escalated the incident after Japan detained the captain. China retaliated by halting critical mineral exports to Japan and arrested four Japanese visiting China. Even before the incident, the Chinese Navy had been swarming near the islands.
After two weeks of hostile reactions, Japan finally capitulated Sept. 24, releasing the captain. But not before other Asian nations saw just how much of a bully China has become.