by Liu Chang
BEIJING, Dec. 3 (Xinhua) -- As U.S. Vice President Joe Biden embarked on his weeklong East Asia trip on Sunday, analysts wondered if he was aware of his country's higher stakes in the region caused by Japan's increasingly rightward shift.
During his visit in Beijing more than two years ago, Mr. Biden unexpectedly dined at a small Chinese restaurant for traditional local snacks.
Despite all the controversial speculations about his motive, one thing was sure that Mr. Biden did try to get close to ordinary Chinese as he understood that it was in Washington's interests to ameliorate U.S. relations with China, especially at a time when the U.S. economy was still floundering.
As Mr. Biden is on his way to visit China once again, it is dead certain that he has written down on his yellow legal pads many ideas to spur trade and economic cooperation with China who decided last month to introduce the most sweeping social, political and economic reform plan in decades.
Needless to say, China's determination to boost its market-oriented and consumer-driven economy would offer tremendous opportunities for the United States to foster its own economic growth and further shrink its jobless population.
Days ago, U.S. National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice spoke in length about U.S.-Asia relationship at Georgetown University.
In her remarks, Rice reaffirmed that "rebalancing toward the Asia Pacific" remains a "cornerstone" of the Obama Administration's foreign policy, adding Washington seeks a new model of major country relations with Beijing, a notion already agreed to by the presidents of both nations.
However, tensions are running ever higher in East Asia as right-wing politicians in Japan continue to roll out inflammatory statements and actions, starting with nationalizing China's Diaoyu Islands. This has grievously overshadowed the refreshed prospects for China-U.S. cooperation, if not thwarted.
Right now, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his cabinet are sailing Japan's ship of state at full speed to the shore of the notoriously vicious far right. It seems to them that the only feasible path for Japan to be a "normal country" is to deny its wartime crimes and build an armed force that would stir another round of arms race in the region.
It's somewhat understandable that Washington wants to do something to shore up its little brother. Yet when Tokyo keeps pissing off almost everybody in the region by its attitude toward its wartime history, it would ultimately cost the United States more than it would gain from backing a country that still honors those whose hands were red with American blood.
Moreover, if Japan continues with its adventurous moves while those who are capable of reining in it fail to act or even embolden it, there will very likely be a day when the situation spirals out of control, and everybody in the region has to burn off their blueprint for development in the face of a broken peace.
A wise and far-sighted Washington should choose to play a constructive role in the region to stop indulging Japan's recklessness in exchange for a mess of pottage, and to persuade the island nation not to go too far.
Otherwise, the Obama administration might have to rebalance toward an Asia-Pacific it very much wants to flee. And When Air Force Two touches down in China this week, besides searching for something that is nicer than "Zhajiangmian" noodles, Mr. Biden might want to have a sincere discussion on that with Chinese leaders.
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