Hey Japan! Okinawa base protests are in the news but what about your base in Africa?

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As I sit here sipping on my mocha, the Japanese media continues to run the Okinawa-mondai stories. Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama plan to move as many as 1,000 of the 2,500 U.S. Marines based at the Marine Corps Air Station Futenma located in Ginowan on the island of Okinawa to Tokunoshima Island in Kagoshima Prefecture was met with protest. As a former-U.S. Marine that has served four tours on Okinawa, this mondai or so-called problem is of great interest to me.

However (comma) I am waiting for the Japanese media to disclose, announce, tell or even bury in the newspaper’s obituary or weather sections, the MAJOR NEWS that the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force will build a $40 million dollar base in Djibouti, Africa. I mean, even the Manga no Shimbun has the story (be sure to download their app for your iPhone, iPod or iPad).

Although the Japanese media and Government of Japan may be silent,  China’s Xinhuanet says:

“by establishing the base, the Japanese government is also exploring how far it can go in increasing its military clout in the world.”

Why is Japan’s move important? Mainly because Japan will need to protect its current and future investments on the continent of Africa AND further their commitment to the United States.

Japan’s new approach into Africa is a big, “I TOLD YOU SO!” moment for me since some in academic circles told me that I was off my rocker for saying Japan should be allowed to send its Self Defense Forces overseas  and that Japan will establish a foothold (okay, maybe a toehold) “somewhere” since the Japan Ground Self Defense Force’s deployment to Iraq was crawl for Japan returning to normal nation status.

I wonder if Japan will utilize its Hyuga, a Maritime Self-Defense Force helicopter destroyer, considered by some observers to be the first step toward the development of a large aircraft carrier in an expanded role.

In April 2009, I posted:

“The Yomiuri Shimbun ran a story on Prime Minister Taro Aso half-stepping or playing politics when it comes to discussing Japan’s right to (re)militarize. Aso remains unable to begin discussion to alter the government’s constitutional interpretation that prohibits the country from exercising the right to collective self-defense. Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has urged Aso, his close friend, to make the issue the party’s campaign pledge for the next House of Representatives election, and changing the government’s interpretation has been Aso’s stock argument, as well. “

Below are the four cases studied by the Council for Rebuilding the Legal Foundation for National Defense and the main points of the report to Aso:

Japan-U.S. alliance

Defending U.S. vessels The country must be allowed to exercise the right to collective self-defense, as it can defend a U.S. naval vessel only in an extremely exceptional case under the government’s conventional interpretation of the Constitution.
Intercepting a missile targeting the United States The matter cannot be resolved by exercising the right to individual self-defense or police powers; There is no other option but to exercise the right to collective self-defense.

International peacekeeping operations (PKO)

Use of weapons The use of weapons by the SDF, including rushing over to provide protection, must follow the international standards.
Logistical support Whether or not to provide logistical support to acclivities of other countries must be determined in view of the appropriateness of Japan’s policy.

Here is my reply to a comment on the case study:

I am very curious to see what direction Japan takes regarding reinterpreting Art. 9 of their constitution. Aso is fence sitting but it seems things are falling in place to test the waters (off the coast of Somalia).

I sensed something was up due to Japan’s expanded interest in Africa, cooperation during the Global War on Terror and loss of certain trade deals made prior to the war in Iraq. Chinese bloggers have started the banter on Japan’s move (the Chinese have major reasons for concern) and even the Voice of Russia has also posted the story in Japanese. Maybe that will reach a certain political party or parties in Japan!

Anyway, it is good that Japanese bloggers have started to post on Japan’s latest move. One blog, Hatena posted “このニュースが詳しく伝えてる。Japanese Military Joins U.S. And NATO In Horn Of Africa” taken from the English language article):

ソマリア沖への軍艦の派遣と、国外初の軍事基地の建設は、北米やヨーロッパの日本の同盟国の戦略に歩調を合わせるものである。海賊やアルカイダの危険が去ったあとでも、ペンタゴン、NATO、そして日本はアフリカにその軍事拠点を置き続けるだろう。

自然災害でも海賊でも、なんで民間でなく自衛隊という「軍」が行くことに自分が抵抗感じるかというと、そいつが結局こーゆーことになるからだと思うんです。「軍」が既得権の拡大に向かうのは、もはや必然といって過言でないので。武力って一番わかりやすい権力だしね。武器もってる相手はやっぱ怖いですから、いうことを聞かざるおえないジャン。

Japan’s case for the (re)interpretation of Article 9 can be made due the pirates expanded reach (in international waters vice along the Somali coast) as properly noted in Time Magazine:

Despite the vigil of many of the world’s powerful navies, it’s clear that the pirates’ reach seems to be widening, with the majority of recent successful attacks taking place closer to the Indian Ocean archipelagoes of the Maldives and the Seychelles than Somalia.

This plays right into Japan’s interests but those that want to stop NATO have voiced their displeasure on Japan joining the United States and NATO in the Horn of Africa. By the way, I should note that although I do not agree with the writer, he has some great information on the Horn of Africa and the “soft” military footprint being established by Eastern nations.

Stay tuned for the rest of the story!

3 Comments

  1. […] at a preschool. But Robinson does more than that. For example, one recent post explored a proposed Japanese military base in Djibouti, Africa. Another applauded the appointment of the first female Bullet Train […]

  2. It’s costing Japan $4 billion to support US airbases on their own soil, So yeah I think Japan has every right to protest amongst other things.

  3. Whether or not Japan’s base (a $40 million base is probably miniscule, btw) will be the source of as many problems as US bases are here remains to be seen.

    The fact that Japan funds American troops in Japan also ought to mean that they can decide whether or not they want to keep them here.

    I personally don’t see why America needs to protect Japan. Japan’s neighbors would mostly likely feel some degree of relief if the US no longer had a presence here and if they ever decided to challenge Japan, Japan is more than capable of protecting itself.

    The simple fact of the matter is that American forces have been in Japan for 65 years now, far longer than most of us have been alive. The reasons for their presence has evolved over the years so that it always meets the new circumstances: first we were here to prevent Japan from re-militarizing. When that threat receded, it was to contain the USSR. When the USSR collapsed, it was to contain China. Now it’s to defend Japan from North Korea’s military which has basically no means of actually invading Japan. And so on.

    It’s time for them to leave finally. America can no longer afford to be the world’s policeman, even if Japan is paying for it and all American forces in Japan do is make Japan a magnet for nuclear weapons.

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