There’s a pretty depressing article on the status of diplomacy in the Far East at FP:
This means that both Japan and China have an interest in seeing the United States face a binary choice between supporting Japan and stepping back from confrontation with China. Tokyo wants Washington to prove unambiguously that it will not sacrifice Japanese interests in order to avoid a rift with Beijing. Beijing wants to show Japan-and the rest of Asia-that America is no longer willing to defend their interests against China’s growing power.
Of course Washington wants to avoid that choice, and it seems to think it can. In Washington, they seem to assume that if shots are fired, China would back down rather than confront the United States militarily. If that’s true, the United States would not have to choose between fighting China and abandoning Japan.
It ain’t necessarily so. Read the whole thing.