Mr. Ozawa’s visit comes just as turbulence in Sino-US relations continues following China’s denying port visits to US Navy vessels. The Chinese government has evidently explained its reasoning for its decisions, suggesting that US arms sales to Taiwan led China to turn the warships away.
Foreign Minister Yang’s purported explanation that the denial was the result of a “misunderstanding” has been dismissed, but I wonder whether Foreign Minister Yang was being sincere, in that the decision without the Foreign Ministry’s input, leaving the foreign minister to try to explain it in Washington. In other words, the decision to welcome the Kitty Hawk, then the decision to turn it away, then the last-minute decision to permit its entry could reflect not Chinese inscrutability but infighting within the government and between the CCP and the PLA fueled by Chinese insecurity. Now, granted, it is reasonable to question whether Beijing’s sense of insecurity is justified, but I still think it would be a mistake for the US (and Japan) to overreact to China’s actions.
And so will Mr. Ozawa address this affair, which has drawn in Japan, when he meets with President Hu? Will Mr. Ozawa use the occasion to present a positive vision for Japanese Asia policy that aims to coax China to play a more responsible security role in the region? Perhaps Mr. Ozawa and Mr. Fukuda could work together on an Asia initiative, seeing as both see the value of reorienting Japan’s foreign policy away from the US to some extent. In doing so, will he be able to strike the proper balance, approaching Mr. Hu not as a supplicant but as a fellow great power interested in the maintenance of order and stability in the region?