japantimes | On Nov. 23, China announced the creation of a newly expanded air defense identification zone (ADIZ) in the East China Sea, overlapping a large expanse of territory also claimed by Japan. The move has produced a visceral reaction in the Japanese vernacular media, particularly the weekly tabloids. Five out of nine weekly magazines that went on sale last Monday and Tuesday contained scenarios that raised the possibility of a shooting war.
One can only wonder what sort of tale American “techno-thriller” writer Tom Clancy — author of “The Hunt for Red October” (1984, involving the Soviet Union) and “Debt of Honor” (1994, involving Japan) — might have spun from the scenario that’s now unfolding in the East China Sea.
Alas, Mr. Clancy passed away of an undisclosed illness on Oct. 1, so instead the task has fallen to Japan’s gunji hyōronka (military affairs critics) or gunji jānarisuto (military affairs writers), whose phones have been ringing off the hook.
First, let’s take Flash (Dec. 17), which ran a “Simulated breakout of war over the Senkakus,” with Mamoru Sato, a former Air Self-Defense Force general, providing editorial supervision. Flash’s scenario has the same tense tone as a Clancy novel, including dialog. On a day in August 2014, a radar operator instructs patrolling F-15J pilots to “scramble north” at an altitude of 65,000 feet to intercept a suspected intruder and proceeds from there.
Sunday Mainichi (Dec. 15) ran an article headlined “Sino-Japanese war to break out in January.” Political reporter Takao Toshikawa tells the magazine that the key to what happens next will depend on China’s economy.
“The economic situation in China is pretty rough right now, and from the start of next year it’s expected to worsen,” says Toshikawa. “The real-estate boom is headed for a total collapse and the economic disparities between the costal regions and the interior continue to widen. I see no signs that the party’s Central Committee is getting matters sorted out.”
An unnamed diplomatic source offered the prediction that the Chinese might very well set off an incident “accidentally on purpose”: “I worry about the possibility they might force down a civilian airliner and hold the passengers hostage,” he suggested.