If–as is implied by the NHK report–Japan thinks that Article 5 can be immediately invoked in dealing with the Senkaku crisis, and that it is thereby standing “shoulder-to-shoulder” with the U.S. against China, I think it is engaging in wishful thinking. During Panetta’s hastily arranged stopover in Tokyo on his way to Beijing, his unsubtle command to Japan was not to further escalate the crisis.

China’s silence on Article 5 is a kind of “non-recognition,” a diplomatic approach that would make it easier for the other side (i.e., the U.S.) to back down and effectively abandon implied commitments. Meanwhile, China is showing no signs that it wishes to de-escalate the confrontation, nor should we expect any lessening of pressure in the near term.

There are many risks in the Senkaku/Diaoyudao crisis. Particularly great are risks owing to miscalculation of the other side’s intentions. For Japan this means not only the intensions of China, but also the intensions of its ally, the United States.