Event DetailsPresented by the Strategic & Defence Studies Centre
Even if the leaders of China and Japan can lessen the significant political tensions between North Asia’s two biggest powers, the East China Sea dispute could still spark a bilateral war which might also bring in the United States. A recent spate of near misses shows that a minor armed clash is eminently possible. Nationalist sentiment and the lack of crisis management mechanisms could make restraint difficult once this occurs. Japan’s reluctance to use force may be less extensive than some assume and its connections to US strategy and C4SIR systems increase the prospects of early American participation. China’s command and control vulnerabilities could create serious pre-emption pressures if Beijing thought a larger conflict was possible. Moreover American attacks on China’s C4SIR systems and its conventional maritime and missile forces might create perverse incentives for China to use its nuclear weapons early while it was still confident in its physical ability to do so.
Australian defence planners should not assume that China and Japan are going to be able to keep their tense relationship in the East China Sea below the threshold of armed violence. Neither should they assume that China, Japan, and the United States will find it easy to avoid a very serious escalation once minor hostilities have occurred. This seminar presentation marks the launch of a new SDSC Centre of Gravity paper by Robert Ayson and Desmond Ball entitled "Escalation in North Asia: A Strategic Challenge for Australia", based on their forthcoming Survival article "Can a Sino-Japanese War Be Controlled?".