US Senate unanimously (98-0) passed the Pentagon’s 2013 budget bill on December 4, 2012. What most don’t know is that the bill, sponsored by Jim Webb, a pro-Japan politician (Jiji Press 20 December 2012), will likely have far-reaching ramifications for U.S.-Japanese-Chinese relations. Importantly, this bill included an important section regarding the disputed islands between China and Japan, unknown to many in the U.S. Later, the whole US Senate approved the 633-billion reconciled version of the “National Defense Authorization Bill for 2013” on December 21 by a 81-14 vote and the House (315-107) passed the same bill one day earlier (Xinhua News 21 December 2012; Philippines News Agency 21 December 2012). The bill now heads to White House for Obama’s signature. While usually, the National Defense Authorization Bill is the subject of little attention in the Asian region, this certainly is not the case for the 2013 bill. The worrisome portions of the bill provide: (US Official News 21 December 2012):
“(3) While the United States takes no position on the ultimate sovereignty of the Senkaku Islands, the United States acknowledges the administration of Japan over the Senkaku Islands;”
(4) The Unilateral action of a third party will not affect the
United States’ acknowledgment of the
administration of Japan over
the ; Senkaku Islands
(7) The United States reaffirms its commitment to the Government of Japan under Article V of the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security that ‘each Party recognizes that an armed attack against either Party in the territories under the administration of Japan would be dangerous to its own peace and safety and declares that it would act to meet the common danger in accordance with its constitutional provisions and processes (emphasis added).’”
For the first in history, the US congress adopted a bill addressing a war which may or may not occur in the future. Even during Pearl Harbor in 1941 with Japan, the U.S .Senate had one vote opposing the bill. The President of the United States cannot declare war mobilizing military forces into action; only the congress (requiring two-thirds of Senate approval) has ultimate authority to deploy troops (such as Afghanistan and Iraqi Wars). The recently passed budget bill has important ramifications in the Asia region. The Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands is not simply an issue of Sino-Japanese relations anymore; it has become serious confrontation between the United States and China in Obama’s Asian “pivot” policy. Recent developments demonstrate that Washington has miscalculated the Chinese determination to regain territory rights in the East China Sea after 150 years of humiliation by Western powers. Similarly, Beijing misjudged the strong connection between the Japanese right-wings and American politicians. If both Beijing and Washington continue to misjudge each other, a war like the Korean War, where China and the U.S. was in direct military conflict, will be inevitable in the East China Sea. For Americans, this means that American lives may be lost to fight a war for Japan based upon long-standing obligations under the US-Japan security pact. It appears that the Japanese right-wings benefit from the San Francisco Peace Treaty signed in the 1950s by Japan and the US and its allies, under which Japan was released from any possible reparation of war which committed by the Japanese imperials military (e.g., sex slaves, POW slaves, kidnapping and slavery labors etc.). Once again, the “National Defense Authorization Bill for 2013” might also become another win for the Japanese right-wings because the Americans might have to fight for Japanese sovereign territory in the East China Sea with the Chinese. Unless diplomatic action is taken to ease tensions on this delicate issue, the “National Defense Authorization Bill for 2013” might result in many lost lives for China and the U.S.