TOKYO, April 24 -- Visiting U.S. President Barack Obama on Thursday made a commitment to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that the disputed Diaoyu Islands between Japan and China fall under U.S.-Japan security treaty, but the commitment would become a risky war trigger at the hawkish Japanese leader's hands.
Pushed by repeated requests from the Japanese side, the U.S. president reluctantly became the first to make such a commitment in public. However, Obama quickly played down the Japanese obsession by saying that the commitment is nothing new as the security treaty came even before his birth.
Under the fifth article of the Japan-U.S. security treaty signed in 1960, the United States has the obligation to help defend Japan when areas under Japan's administration are being attacked.
At that time, however, even the entire Okinawa was under U.S. occupation and this southernmost island prefecture of Japan can hardly be considered under Japan's administration, not to mention the Diaoyu Islands which are inherent territories of China.
However, when it handed Okinawa over to Japan in 1972, the United States secretly included China's Diaoyu Islands in its underhand deal with Tokyo. That is why the successive U.S. governments have refrained from taking sides on the issue of the islands' sovereignty. Similarly, Obama reiterated this position of the U.S.government on Thursday despite his defense commitment.
But Obama's commitment came to Abe as an unexpected gift. Abe seems to believe that the U.S.commitment would encourage him to take military actions in defiance of Japan's pacifist constitution, such as lifting the ban on weapon exports and on the exercise of collective-defense right, and sending Self-Defense Forces abroad.
It is known to all that since China and Japan normalized their diplomatic ties, the two countries have reached political consensus on shelving disputes over the Diaoyu Islands. It is the Abe administration and Japan's rightwing forces who tore up the gentleman's agreement between the two countries and took unilateral action to nationalize the islands in an attempt to activate the Japan-U.S security treaty and fulfill the political and military ambition of the ruling rightwing group.
With an unscrupulous Abe going further down the road to challenge post-war international order and make Japan a "normal state," Obama's defense commitment would leave the United States hijacked by Japanese rightwing forces and turn Japan-U.S.military alliance into a war machine that threatens peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region and the rest of the world. That is certainly not what President Obama had intended when he made the commitment.