Finally, I present the last of the series of posts (part 1 and part 2) about energy security in the Asia-pacific region, after quite some time occupied with the exams I have passed of the masters programme I am currently pursuing.
Going to the point and interest of the post that we have in hand. The last part is an analysis of the relation among the three most influential actors in the region -the US, China & Japan- and how does it affect to security matters in the area. To close the circle of the chapter series, the post ends up with a the conclusion about the situation that has been talked.
The US – China – Japan
When we speak of Asia, we are primarily referring to China and Japan. They happen to be two of the most influential nations in the region, both economically and politically speaking, for this reason this section is devoted to them.
Geographically, Japan is formed by four large islands and many other smaller ones spread around north and south. The particular geographic location and its territorial limitation have made of Japan a nation with maritime character for obvious reasons, driven by the need to find the necessary minerals to feed its powerful industry, in need of importation of resources such as oil, which mainly comes from the Persian Gulf. Having these data, it is understandable the vulnerability and the need to engage interests worldwide.
However, the industrial power still depends largely on the willingness the US to protect the shipping lanes and avoid potential risks in the supply routes, particularly the Strait of Hormuz. This situation automatically put Tokio in a subordinated position regarding its relationship with Washington.
China´s territory extends up to 4,000 km inland and borders with 14 countries. The vast majority of the population lives in the eastern part of the country, in a range of about 650 km from the coast to interior, for the simple reason of being able to have access to water availability.
The relationship between China and the US is of a different kind. The US happens to be the major consumer of Chinese industrial products, but it also depends to a lesser extent, to the flow of raw material passing through waters controlled by the US. A possible loss of imported raw materials would not constitute an existential threat, and can stand on its own choosing isolation (given situation in their past).
The US continues to control the sea lanes of Japan and has the means to ensure its access. Moreover, the main gateway to China is by sea, but it lacks of a powerful fleet. It will need many years to compete with the United States and Japan in the sea.
Strategically speaking, the american interest in the region is buying more time. It may be difficult for the US to control their relationship with the different areas of the Western Pacific region, since each is in a different phase, both economically and politically.
Any state/actor can hardly maintain a global economic and political stability without the Asian continent. Not only for its vast extent, also by the density of population and its strategic location on the trade routes. Characterized by cultural and religious complexity, directly affecting the economic and political spheres (mentioned in previous sections), for example, in Central Asia, in addition to some territorial disputes in its waters, directly related to the submerged mineral wealth under seas.
Even when taking into account the economic or cultural concerts, such as ASEAN, ASEAN +3, SCO, etc. Asia can not be understood without the US. It is not called the «hegemony» by mere chance. The economic, cultural and military influence, make this country an important hub for Asian development and consequently the rest of the world.
For good, the regional energy interests, makes them both, the asian nations and the US, to keep mutual interest and close relationships, respecting the autonomous development of all of them. But the most remarkable aspect has to do with the control of the safety of maritime communication routes and trade routes, which nowadays are only effectively managed by the US, which makes the US appear as a necessary player in the region.
* Sources of information: