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Japan's Renaissance

Journalist Yoshiko Sakurai (Shukan Shincho) wrote the article below. The comments and links that I posted will provide you with additional information. Additionally, the highlights and items in bold or red are my, (Zurui’s), emphasis

In the evening of Oct. 19, four Chinese military ships transited the Tsugaru Strait from the Japan Sea to the Pacific.

Tsugaru Strait (Tsugaru Kaiky?) Japan applies the 3-nautical-mile (5.6 km) territorial limit to the Tsugaru Strait and allows foreign ships to pass through the Strait. The Tsugaru Strait has eastern and western necks, both approximately 20 km across with maximum depths of 200 and 140 m respectively.

The four ships included a Russian-made Sovremenny-class destroyer, Chinese-made latest frigates Jiangkai I and Jiangkai II, and a refueling vessel. A Sovremenny-class destroyer is loaded with missiles that travel at two times the speed of sound which even the U.S. fears. It is difficult to detect by radar a missile that travels as low as six meters above sea level.

 “China’s military knows that it must be able to prevent, or, at least severely complicate, the American Navy’s use of its aircraft carriers. To this end, as the new report spells out, China’s antiship cruise missile force is growing by leaps and bounds. It has begun to field high-end, supersonic and subsonic cruise missiles on its new destroyers, attack boats, and submarines. It has even experimented with use of maneuverable, multiple-entry MRBMs and SRBMs to hit carrier battle groups. Once China solves the problem of longer-range detection and targeting, it will pose the most serious threat to American carriers in the world.

In 2000, a Chinese ship conducting an intelligence-gathering operation passed the Tsugaru Strait from the Japan Sea to the Pacific and back. The vessel was probably engaged in gathering information on the radio waves used by the U.S. Armed Forces and the Japan Self-Defense Forces, in addition to the sea current, water temperature, and the topography of the seabed.

After eight years, Chinese warships navigated through the Tsugaru Strait for the first time. The Chinese Navy’s area of deployment has obviously expanded.

 The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) believes that threat with no substance behind it is not threat at all, so a threat always has to be real. The PLA thinks the benefit of its naval-power buildup is that it enables China to pose a political threat to other countries just by navigating through the waters of the world. The PLA believes that, once it can successfully make other countries aware of the power of its Navy, China’s political and diplomatic power will naturally increase. 

The PLA Navy with 260,000 personnel is comprised of three fleets of the North Sea, the East Sea, and the South Sea, each of which has waterborne ship units, submarine units, aviation units, ground battle units, and coastal artillery units, and has become a pillar to support the country’s arms race into the space. 

U.S. Pacific Commander Keating testified before the Senate Military Committee on March 12 about the PLA Navy’s tough attitude. According to the Commander, when he visited China, a PLA Navy key officer suggested the Pacific should be divided in two “with you (the U.S.) acquiring the area to the east of Hawaii and with us acquiring the area to the west of Hawaii.” U.S. Ambassador to Japan Schieffer relayed this information to the Japanese press on the next day of Commander Keating’s testimony. The Ambassador must have felt the deep message. 

The meaning [of the Ambassador’s message] is that the situation may develop into the course described in China’s scenario unless Japan builds up a strong foundation. It means a U.S. partner in Asia is not limited to Japan forever. 

U.S. displeasure 

Japan kept falling short of expectation in responding to the information conveyed by Ambassador Schieffer seven months ago, Jim Auer told me. Auer, a former U.S. Navy officer, served as Pentagon’s Japan Desk director under Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger. Auer has been described as Richard Armitage’s right-hand man at the Defense Department. In 1988, Auer retired to establish the Center for U.S.-Japan Studies and Cooperation at Vanderbilt University. He now serves as director of the center. Auer, a close observer of Japan-U.S. relations for 20 years, said: “The U.S.-Japan relationship is in a far serious condition than the Japanese people think.”

Dozens of interviews with experts on Japan disclose that the United States is unable to pursue a coherent policy toward Tokyo because of a series of ”turf wars” among Federal agencies. On key issues, the agencies do not communicate, much less coordinate.

Relatively few people in the United States Government focus on Japan, and even fewer can read Japanese. They are invariably outnumbered by their counterparts in the Japanese Government, which has a large cadre of experts on the United States. Need for Overarching Strategy

”Washington desperately needs a centralized command-and-control structure to coordinate its myriad dealings with Japan into one overarching strategy,” said Ronald A. Morse, an expert on Japan at the Library of Congress. ”The degree of ignorance about Japan in the U.S. Government is shocking. Each agency negotiates with the Japanese in isolation and tries to cut a deal on its own issues.”

The Japanese government is unhappy with President George W. Bush, who removed North Korea from the list of state sponsors of terrorism, because the delisting means that the United States has recognized North Korea as a nuclear power, which means that Japan is exposed to the threat of nuclear attack from that country. Since there are other nuclear powers — Russia, India and Pakistan – surrounding Japan, Japan, too, should prepare the environment for possessing its own nuclear weapons to protect its national security. There is a way to strengthen the Japan-U.S. alliance further that would help the U.S. nuclear umbrella function better. This can be achieved by Japan allowing the entry of nuclear weapons by changing the present three no-nuclear principles (neither make nor possess nuclear weapons, and not to allow their entry into Japan) into two no-nuclear principles.

Statements such as the one above is why I previously stated that [I] believe that Japan will do all it can to once again become a “non-passive” military power in Asia. Japan’s soft power combined with hard power will do wonders for country!

Meanwhile, Japan should continue its refueling and water supply mission in the Indian Ocean to support the war on terror in and around Afghanistan. Japan should allow the Self-Defense Forces (SDF) to exercise the right of collective defense. Ultimately, it may be necessary for Japan itself to guarantee its own security. Eventually, Japan should press ahead with debate on whether it should possess nuclear weapons or not.

Prime Minister Abe convened a “panel of experts” back in April 2007, to consider whether it was necessary to “revise the current interpretation of the Constitution”, in order to allow Japan to participate to a greater extent in international security activity. In particular, the panel was to consider four specific scenarios that highlighted the ramifications of the constitutional prohibition on collective self-defence and collective security operations.

When Auer was told there was such thinking in Japan, he noted that the thinking on the U.S. side was even more severe than that in Japan. Auer, being an American who knows Japan very well, stated:

“I know that the Diet is discussing a bill to extend the Maritime Self-Defense Force’s (MSDF) refueling operation in the Indian Ocean. But frankly the situation has been created that the United States will not be able to directly receive oil that Japan will supply. The Japanese side has questioned whether the fuel the MSDF had supplied to be used for Afghanistan had been diverted for use toward Iraq, as well. Both countries are a part of the war on terror. The moves of U.S. warships depend on the situation. If it is said that the fuel should be used for Afghanistan alone, it will be very difficult to use it. That is why people are beginning to think in the United States that it is difficult to get along with Japan.”

In October 2007, (then) Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba questioned the United States whether the nearly 800 times that Japan provided refueling services were used for purposes other than the original intent. He promised in the Diet to investigate it. [Auer said that] even though the United States disclosed that information, it was displeased by the experience.

Japan-U.S. alliance should be further strengthened 

Japan has continued to provide China with an incommensurable amount of official development assistance (ODA). Although the government has said that ODA is provided to support the people’s livelihood, it has yet to question China how it has been used. What has been so far not been disclosed is that ODA has contributed to China’s military buildup. Still, China opposed Japan’s bid for a permanent UNSC seat and influenced leading Asian and African countries to do the same. China used its own ODA to manipulate those Asian and African countries. There is a possibility that China may have slipped in its own ODA to Asia and Africa, replacing Japan’s aid, but Japan has never questioned China about it. When seeing such a situation from a viewpoint of national interests and an ally, there is a clear contradiction. The U.S. displeasure is understandable.

On the other hand, I believe that the United States should reduce its dependency on China (manufacturing, labor, other). Even more, I am incensed that US taxpayers and shop-a-holic a.k.a. consumers have pumped trillions of dollars into the Chinese economy via big box purchases while the US continues to lose jobs and numerous trade secrets (civilian and military) to the PRC. When will we wake up and smell the roses? Maybe on November 4, 2008. That’s my plug to reward businesses that train and hire workers in the US and penalize those that ship jobs abroad! Now when I look at the situation Japan faces (as an ally), I believe that Japan should have a true standing military (which means revising their constitution) in order to support not only their interests in region but also the interests of the United States.

The primary reason for the United States being unhappy with Japan is that no matter how hard the MSDF troops have worked, they have never fought alongside the U.S.-led multinational force.

In an earlier paper, I stated that the MSDF and GSDF deployments to SWA would serve as a litmus test to ease the Japanese into warming to the idea of having a military once again. 

The MSDF’s refueling mission is not a military operation; it is a commercial activity. The Ground Self-Defense Force’s activities in the southern Iraqi city of Samawah were not military operations. It is only natural that the United States may conclude it should find more reliable ally if Japan always says it will not make any military contribution.

I previously posted on Japan’s rise military in Asia: “Many of the BT’ers are well aware of my post regarding Japan’s “defensive” military capabilities and the need for Japan to step up and do more than open the fat checkbook when it comes to defense contributions. Some may also remember my posts on Japan’s steady rise in the Asian-Pacific region and Japan cautiously testingthe waters for constitutional reform.  Well the news below bolsters my stance that Japan is sending signals to its largest trading partner, China, that there is/will be a new sheriff (or at least deputy) in town. I will follow-up to this story with additional analysis.” 

That is how little Japan’s refueling mission is appreciated. However, both Auer and U.S. Ambassador to Japan Thomas Schieffer – the one who informed Japan of China’s proposal to the U.S. to share control of the Pacific — are asking Japan whether it wants to become a dependable ally. If Japan has no intention to do so, there is even a possibility that the United States will change to another partner. That possibility will probably become stronger if Democratic candidate Barack Obama is elected president.

I disagree! The US is in Japan for the long-term. One must ask if it is feasible to “change” partners. What country in the Asia-Pacific region has Japan economic (and military) clout? Why does the writer feel that an Obama Administration would put a halt to the relationship?

 Japan is not becoming unattractive as a base location. It can understandably be seen as a burden to the some of those in Okinawa since there is much more space to “house” an ally in the Mainland. Tokyo knows this but of course he who wins wars writes the rules and the Okinawa people are at the mercy of the Government of Japan, especially since they are “technically”, Japanese. And what about the need to concentrate bases? The advancement of information and telecommunications does not replace the need for a forward deployed force.

Approximately 8,000 US Marines and their 9,000 family members will be moved from the Japanese island of Okinawa to Guam. America will keep good on its promise to close or consolidate up to five bases in Japan. The US steps to consolidate, realign, and reduce U.S. facilities and areas are consistent with the objectives of the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security. This means that Japan’s Self Defense Force will have to take a greater role in maintaining security in the Asia-Pacific region. Does Japan’s constitution allow for this? Will Japan’s neighbors in the Asia-Pacific region feel comfortable with the idea of seeing the Hinomaru rising in the East?

One has to remember that seven of the world’s largest armed forces are located in the Asia-Pacific region. The unpredictable security climate in the Asia-Pacific region (e.g., the Takeshima/Tokdo dispute, a rising China, the Taiwan issue, the unstable DPRK regime, piracy in the Strait of Malacca, conflict in South West Asia, terrorism, other) requires that the US rapidly respond. For instance, considering the number of humanitarian crisis in the Asia-Pacific region recently, removing too many bases and troops will potentially diminish the effectiveness of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations.

If the US had to respond to a conflict on the Korean Peninsula and needed troops from the Continental United States, it would take a Carrier Task Force (CTF) traveling at 20 knots 11-days to reach the peninsula. If it had to respond to a Middle East crisis it would need 20-days to reach the Gulf of Oman. On the other hand, it would take that same CTF two-days to reach the Korean Peninsula and 11-days to reach the Gulf of Oman if the US maintained forward deployed forces in Japan. The first troops to arrive in response to Iraq invading Kuwait leading to the first Gulf war were the Marines from the Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF) Okinawa (ahhh, memories!). Click here to read more of my comment.

Japan must make better efforts. The first matter to attend to is to effectively strengthen the alliance that is particularly vital to meet the threats from China and North Korea. In order to become a normal country, Japan should allow itself to use the right of collective self-defense. Japan then should approach the United States with confidence to query whether it is appropriate for China, which has a different set of values, to ever become the U.S.’ ally. Japan should stress to the U.S. that there should be no other country but Japan qualified to be America’s ally. 

Source: SHUKAN SHINCHO (Pages 164-165) (Full), October 30, 2008

I look forward to your comments!

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