• With: Joe Rago, Kim Strassel, Dan Henninger, Bret Stephens

    STEPHENS: There are other things we ought to care about more. We should have an environment that encourages immigrants to come to this country, to innovate, to succeed, and to have second chances in life in case they fail the first time. That's much more important to making sure that Johnny at 15 is at the same level of those mighty Lichtensteinians in calculus.

    STRASSEL: Yeah, but that's suggesting we just don't care about this issue. I mean, we should be able to walk and chew gum at the same time. You can have all of those things and also want an education system that improves.

    The thing is, we know what you need to do to make it better. It's not spending $115,000 per head. It's having some school choice, having merit- based pay for teachers, having competition between teachers and, in general, giving our kids a better environment, especially in K through 12, where their instructors are inspiring them to be at school and learn these things.

    STEPHENS: That's all true. But this isn't the key to national success.

    GIGOT: OK, Bret, thank you.

    When we come back, Vice President Joe Biden wraps up his Asian trip amid rising tensions over China's renewed military aggression towards Japan. Will the U.S. stand behind its ally?

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    (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

    JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We, the United States, are deeply concerned for the attempt to unilaterally change the status quo in the East Chinese Sea. This action has raised regional tensions and increased the risks of accidents and miscalculations.

    (END VIDEO CLIP)

    GIGOT: Vice President Joe Biden Tuesday voicing concern over China's aggressive new Air Defense Identification Zone in the East Chinese Sea. The comments came during his week-long trip to the region, which included more than five hours of face-to-face meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping, who showed no sign of backing down from his bid to exercise control over Japan's Senkaku Islands.

    So, Dan, let's step back a second and give viewers a sense of why Americans should care about this dispute over some islands in the East China Sea.

    HENNINGER: Well, I think they should care because it looks as though that area of the world is becoming destabilized. You have China, its intention with not only Japan, but a lot of the countries down in the South China Sea, Indonesia, the Philippines, and they are using their muscle to try to push their hegemony over those waters. And these countries, right, especially Japan and South Korea, are going to push back. So you've got a very tense situation down there. Historically, in the entire post-war period, the United States has, shall we say, had the back of countries like Japan and South Korea. And at this moment, they literally are explicitly doubting that. That's why Vice President Biden had to go out there, to reassure them.

    And I have to say, Paul, I have no recollection of a U.S. administration in the post-war period having to go out on a trip like Mr. Biden's and reassure our allies that we were behind them. It's unprecedented.

    GIGOT: So we also, Bret, have a treaty obligation to defend Japan if it is attacked.

    STEPHENS: Including these little islands.

    GIGOT: Including the little islands, right. Did Joe Biden succeed in reassuring Japan?

    STEPHENS: No, I actually think he raised some doubts, deep doubts, in the minds of Japan's foreign ministry and of its leaders.

    (CROSSTALK)

    GIGOT: You've been talking to your sources in Asia?

    STEPHENS: Yeah. There's real nervousness. Basically, they're as nervous as, say, the Saudis and the Israelis are when it companies to Iran. There's a sense this is an administration that wants to put America in retreat. The administration's been talking about channels of communication with the Chinese when what they should be saying is we will not recognize this Air Defense Identification Zone and, in fact, we'll take proactive steps to prevent the Chinese from enforcing it.

    GIGOT: But they did sent B-52s --

    STEPHENS: That's right.

    GIGOT: -- through that air identification zone without informing the Chinese in advance. And I assume you support that.

    STEPHENS: I praised it on the show last week, absolutely.

    GIGOT: So what is it that they are doing that is inadequate in your view of sending that message of --

    (CROSSTALK)

    STEPHENS: There are very sort of precise, diplomatic terms of art and rhetoric that the administration ought to be using. One of the things they ought to be saying is we recognize the Senkaku Islands as sovereign Japanese territory. We are treaty bound from our defense treaty with Japan, I think, from 1960, to defend those islands. We will take steps by, for instance, having joint patrols around the Senkaku Islands to make it clear to the Chinese how we view this matter.

    GIGOT: We sent a signal about our alliance with Japan --

    STEPHENS: Right. And to tell the Chinese at this relatively early stage to back off before there is some accident or miscalculation on their part.

    GIGOT: Dan, China is a rising power. And history shows that when you have a rising power, especially an authoritarian power that is beginning to push its boundaries and assert itself -- and there's no question in my mind that China wants to dominate the Pacific and push the Americans out -- you really do have a situation where you can get military conflict if either -- if, for example, that rising power doesn't understand the limits, doesn't understand how the world will push back. Do you think the United States is giving that adequate signal to the Chinese?

    HENNINGER: Absolutely, not, Paul. We just showed Vice President Biden saying essentially the right thing. But the problem is that's the really first time that a prominent American official has done that. You can't show up at the 11th hour, which is where we are now, and suddenly start making these blustery statements. The administration has had nobody at the highest level, including the secretary of state -- Secretary of State Kerry has been preoccupied with the Middle East -- working that area of the world persistently over a long period of time. You don't have to go public with every threat or every message to these people, but you do have to be talking and we simply have let them slide out there in that region of the world.

    GIGOT: All, right, thanks very much.

    We have to take one more break. When we come back, "Hits and Misses" of the week.

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    GIGOT: Time now for "Hits and Misses" of the week.

    Dan, first to you.

    HENNINGER: Well, a missed to my favorite headline of the week, Paul, which was that, "Obama orders the federal government to triple the use of renewable fuels." He "orders" them. This remained me the story of the King Canute, the king who went down to the ocean and ordered the tides to recede just like that. But there's a more serious point here. If he's going to triple the government's use of renewable fuels that means their energy bill is going to rise. And guess who will pay for this additional energy cost? We, the taxpayers. So it strikes me a lot like ObamaCare. It's going to be a lot more expensive then advertised.

    GIGOT: All right.

    Kim?