In his statement at the White House in 2015, Chinese President Xi Jinping made a commitment not to militarise the artificial islands China built in the South China Sea. Observers wondered how China defined the term ‘militarisation’. And it is this lack of clarity helping to fuel speculation over Beijing’s strategic ambitions.
The Trump administration appears eager to change its position frequently, keeping both friends and adversaries on their toes. The snag is that, at least for the moment, allies are more rattled than potential enemies.
China’s recent vituperative reaction to the Japanese seizure of a trawler reflects a new and troubling assertiveness that places at risk the benign and conciliatory image it has assiduously cultivated in recent years.
The US and South Korean show-of-arms against North Korea have generated accusations from China of escalating tension in the region. Is this is a legitimate security response, or a sign of China's new-found assertiveness?
Yukio Hatoyama is Japan's fourth prime minister to resign in as many years. His departure underlines the exasperation with Japan's leadership at home and abroad, and calls into question the future of the country's defence posture.