Asia’s Democratic Security Diamond

TOKYO – In the summer of 2007, addressing the Central Hall of the Indian Parliament as Japan’s prime minister, I spoke of the “Confluence of the Two Seas” – a phrase that I drew from the title of a book written by the Mughal prince Dara Shikoh in 1655 – to the applause and stomping approval of the assembled lawmakers. In the five years since then, I have become even more strongly convinced that what I said was correct.

Peace, stability, and freedom of navigation in the Pacific Ocean are inseparable from peace, stability, and freedom of navigation in the Indian Ocean. Developments affecting each are more closely connected than ever. Japan, as one of the oldest sea-faring democracies in Asia, should play a greater role in preserving the common good in both regions.

Yet, increasingly, the South China Sea seems set to become a “Lake Beijing,” which analysts say will be to China what the Sea of Okhotsk was to Soviet Russia: a sea deep enough for the People’s Liberation Army’s navy to base their nuclear-powered attack submarines, capable of launching missiles with nuclear warheads. Soon, the PLA Navy’s newly built aircraft carrier will be a common sight – more than sufficient to scare China’s neighbors.

That is why Japan must not yield to the Chinese government’s daily exercises in coercion around the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea. True, only Chinese law-enforcement vessels with light weaponry, not PLA Navy ships, have entered Japan’s contiguous and territorial waters. But this “gentler” touch should fool no one. By making these boats’ presence appear ordinary, China seeks to establish its jurisdiction in the waters surrounding the islands as a fait accompli.