How do you say Crimea in Japanese? Senkaku:
If Chinese troops were to seize the Senkakus, might they also wrest the nearby Ryukyu Islands from Japan? It's not so far-fetched: Japanese strategists fret about how to forestall a doomsday scenario in the Ryukyus, the southwestern island chain that arcs from Japan's home islands southwest toward Taiwan.
Americans should worry as well. The southern tip of the Ryukyu Islands sits only about 80 miles east of the Senkakus. Unlike the uninhabited Senkakus, the Ryukyus host not only roughly 1.5 million Japanese residents, but also the U.S. Marine and Air Force bases that anchor the U.S. presence in the East China Sea. Occupying the Ryukyus would fracture the U.S. strategic position in East Asia -- separating U.S. forces based in Japan (to the north) from those at Bahrain, the other permanent U.S. hub in Asia, far to the west. At a bare minimum, U.S. ships and aircraft would have to detour around Chinese-held islands, waters, and skies -- incurring the additional time and costs longer voyages entail.
What I described as Professor Ditherton Wiggleroom's "petulant impotence" in the face of Russian aggression must surely be tempting the Chinese.
Cooler heads have mostly governed Beijing's international actions, but that's become less true over the last few years.