U.S. officials have good reason to remind China of the costs of conflict and the importance of settling even contentious territorial disputes peacefully. At the same time, however, the Trump administration should avoid issuing blank checks to allies seeming to exempt them from having to deal with, and even discuss, those same territorial challenges. Sometimes blank checks get cashed with disastrous consequences, like Imperial Germany’s support for the Austro-Hungarian Empire, which sped Europe’s plunge into the World War I abyss.
The Senkaku Islands are of little practical importance to China and Japan, and essentially of no importance to America. But as the locus of a dangerous game of geopolitical chicken, they could spark another Sino-Japanese war, which would be disastrous. And if that turned into a Sino-American conflict, the consequences would be incalculable. President Donald Trump should never forget these dangers as he confronts China’s growing ambition and power.
Doug Bandow is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute and a former special assistant to President Ronald Reagan.
Image: Japanese F-15DJ. Wikimedia Commons/Creative Commons/@Cp9asngf