Posts Tagged ‘Japan’
As this blog enters its fourth week, one theme that has consistently cropped up in the news is the issue of Chinese military developments. This post marks the first in an ongoing series tracking media and blogger reactions to the growth of China’s military capabilities.
China: Danger Before the Doom?
China’s Military Comes Into Its Own
China’s Questionable Military Aims
China’s Military Muscle
J-20: The Threat We Think it Is?
U.S. Navy Chief Isn’t Sweating China’s Sea Power
What it means for Japan
China’s Rise = Remilitarizing Japan?
By John Hemmings @ The Diplomat
Japan PM ‘concerned’ over China’s defence build-up
|China’s J-20 stealth fighter (left) alongside Russia’s Sukhoi PAK FA (centre) and the American F-22 Raptor (right) (source: DefenseTech)|
|Robert Kaplan on China’s Navy (source: Coming Anarchy)|
#1: Obama Hears a Hu
|Presidents Barack Obama and Hu Jintao at a joint press conference
in Washington on January 19.
Chinese President Hu Jintao was in the US this week for what was expected to be his ‘legacy’ visit. Unfortunately, it didn’t seem that any concrete political developments came out of the talks besides pledges for closer cooperation. As The Daily Beast summed up concisely, ‘Obama didn’t get the concessions he wanted from China’s Hu. But then, he didn’t have the cards he needed.’
For some, however, it was good enough:
The Obama administration accomplished exactly what it set out to do: stake out its positions on a wide range of issues in the U.S.-China relationship, appear strong on concerns such as human rights, bring a little forward momentum to the relationship, and get a few deliverables (on the trade and investment front) in the process.
If anything, Hu seemed to go into the talks hoping to settle US fears over China’s recent antagonism:
It is only normal, in any relationship, to have disagreement and friction, Hu said. But he added that a strategic and long-term perspective will ensure relations will not be affected or held back by any individual incident at any particular time.
Despite this blogger’s expectations to the contrary, Hu did not offer any progress on bilateral military talks. It seems ever more likely that that option is not Hu’s to offer.
One of the more important discussions between Hu and Obama manifested into a joint statement on North Korea. In the statement, there was still some support for the Six-Party Talks (in whatever form they can finally settle on – it has been suggested that the inclusion of the talks in the statement was a compromise by Washington), as well as the specific mention of ‘the DPRK’s claimed uranium enrichment program,’ which could be read as China giving some ground on North Korea’s nuclear development – although China denies such a change. Whether any of what was said will amount to anything depends on inter-Korean talks, as well as North Korea more specifically.
The joint press conference with both leaders was plagued by interpretation issues which should cause the White House some embarrassment – or not, but Obama handled himself well, perhaps noticeably better than his Chinese counterpart. [Transcript here via CFR]
|Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa arrives
at Kadena AFB, Okinawa on January 20
At a speech for the Friendship Exchange Council, Prime Minister Kan reaffirmed the necessity of the US bases in Okinawa, and promised “to strengthen efforts through various opportunities to seek the understanding and cooperation of those living outside Okinawa regarding the burden of hosting U.S. bases.”
The speech came as Japan and US signed a new five-year Special Measures Agreement on ‘host nation support,’ often called the sympathy budget (omoiyari yosan). Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara wants to put a stop to this nickname:
“Host nation support is often referred to as ‘sympathy budget,’ but we will no longer use this term since host nation support is a strategic contribution by Japan,” he said. “I’d like to declare that it is something that is agreed based on mutual strategic grounds.”
Regardless of those mutual grounds, “Japan wanted to pay less because of its financial straits and the U.S. was hoping it would pay more in light of elevated tensions on the Korean Peninsula and China’s rising might.” It looks like Japan won out, but also allowed the US to insert a clause whereby Japan might “partially or completely compensate the United States for the cost of shifting U.S. military drills to other venues.” A hedge against developments in Okinawa?
The Japan Times reported that:
Japan will cover the cost of relocating the F-15 drills under a bilateral pact to partially move them from U.S. Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, so about 20 F-15s can take part in each drill on Guam, with each lasting up to 20 days. Support aircraft, including aerial tankers, will also have to take part in the drills. The U.S. military can conduct the drills alone or jointly with the Self-Defense Forces.
Stars and Stripes added:
Kitazawa also told [Okinawa Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima] that both governments reached an agreement to close the 149-acre Marine Corps Gimbaru Training Area, located near Camp Hansen. Closure of the Marine training facility was first agreed to in 1996 by the Special Action Committee on Okinawa on the condition that the helicopter landing zone would be relocated to the nearby Kin Blue Beach Training Area and other Gimbaru facilities moved to Camp Hansen.
The announcements came as Kitazawa visited Okinawa (and Kadena AFB) – new Chief Cabinet Secretary and Minister for Okinawan Affairs Yukio Edano made a visit yesterday, and Maehara will follow before the end of the month. It shows a determined push by Kan to look strong on the problem of Okinawa, and it shows once more how Kan and his men have entered 2011 with fists swinging. His position is helped by an apparent softening on the issue following SecDef Robert Gates’ trip to East Asia last week:
“They’re looking for a compromise, to give Kan something that he can show to the public,” explains John Swenson-Wright, associate fellow of the Asia Programme at Chatham House. “It makes sense for Washington to offer practical concessions, but I’d be very surprised if the relocation of Futenma [within Okinawa] didn’t go through as originally agreed.”
Regardless of whether or not this is the result of America having thrown Japan a bone, Kan could certainly do with the support.
|South Korean and North Korean guards at Panmunjom
(Source: Debate It Out)
North Korea’s offer of talks has finally gained it some ground as South Korea agree to high-level military talks “only if the agenda included the two events that have soured relations – the sinking of a southern warship in March, and the shelling of a southern island.”
North Korea latest proposal for talks came on Thursday following the US-China Joint Statement on North Korea in Washington. The question remains whether North Korea will be happy to talk about those events and whether the answers it gives will be sufficient for the South.
With a cautiously optimistic wind in its sales, South Korea is also looking at having preliminary talks on denuclearisation:
“Our position is that separate high-level talks are essential to check sincerity about denuclearization and we will propose” such talks, Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan said at a New Year’s reception for foreign diplomats stationed in Seoul.
“If North Korea demonstrates sincerity through specific action and then six-party talks resume, our government will seek a comprehensive resolution of the North Korean nuclear issue” through its “grand bargain” idea of a one-time major deal of swapping denuclearization and concessions, he said.
“North Korea should decide on its own whether it will choose a dead-ended road of confrontation and enmity or a road of peace and prosperity,” he said
An editorial in the Chosun Ilbo guesses at the reason for North Korea’s willingness to come to the table:
Until now the North has told its starving people that normalized relations with the U.S. would solve the food shortage and economic problems. But the only country in the world with the ability and willingness to help North Korea is the South. This reality seems finally to have hit the North when Seoul halted all trade and exchanges following the sinking of the Cheonan. The only way for the North to reach out to Washington is through Seoul, and only through Washington can the doors to the wider world open.
One writer, Nuno Santiago de Magalhaes, was willing to connect the Yeonpyeong Island strike to the talks as part of a connected strategy to get Seoul to the table. It certainly describes North Korea’s past behaviour quite well, but it’s hard to say whether the Yeonpyeong attack was so well devised.
North Korea has to play its cards right as South Korea is unwilling to taken for a ride. That might be asking too much of the North.
The Small Print
|Prime Minister Shinzo Abe with President George W. Bush
and Prime Minister John Howard in Sydney, September 8 2007
In 2006, as Japan and Australia were discussing what would become the March 2007 Japan-Australia Joint Declaration on Security Cooperation, Australia and the US discussed Japanese proposals of a greater intelligence exchange relationship on regional issues, including rising China, North Korea, and Iran.
This particular passage was deeply telling:
In a meeting with senior Japanese Foreign Ministry intelligence officials, [Randall Fort, head of the US State Department Intelligence and Research Bureau] urged his counterparts to tap the ”underutilised assets” represented by the global network of Japanese businesses.
”Japan, with its economic and diplomatic presence in countries like Iran, could draw on insights that would be of great interest to the United States,”
Japan had a ”unique opportunity” to collect intelligence inside Iran where the US had no embassy, he argued.
”Any diplomatic or intelligence reporting Japan received from Iran, no matter how seemingly mundane, would be extremely valuable to us.”
However, Japan’s poor control over its information security left the US and Australia cold (this was a time when the MSDF were losing data to Chinese honeytraps and computer file-sharers). Indeed, Japan’s lax security are often blamed for Chinese military developments by security otaku in Japan.
It is unclear to what extent this intelligence exchange grew and how well it survived Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (assuming it was his initiative – he showed interest in bilateral security exchanges and the beefing up of Japanese intelligence).
|Locations of the 17 abduction incidents (source: Government’s Rachi Mondai site)|
After years of being bogged down by the abduction issue in the Six-Party Talks, Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara seems to understand that it can’t continue.
Whereas top Japanese and North Korean diplomats could sit face-to-face with each other to discuss the abductions at the six-party nuclear talks, the multilateral dialogue is for discussing Pyongyang’s nuclear program, he said.
“Basically, the abduction and missile issues should be resolved by Japan through direct negotiations with North Korea regardless of the six-party talks,” Maehara said.
If the Japanese government follows through on Maehara’s words, it will have been a long time coming. I first blogged about this problem 3 years ago, and by then it had already gone on too long. If Japan cannot keep the abduction issue (at the least) in bi-lateral talks, then it will devalue its role in multilateral forums.
Let’s just hope that Maehara can make good on that statement.
For more information on the abduction issue, check out some of my old posts on the topic at (now-defunct) Abduction Politics:
Mysterious Circumstances: Part 1 [Jan 31, 2007]
Mysterious Circumstances: Part 2 [Feb 3, 2007]
Abduction Issue Bonanza! [Oct 9, 2007]
The Abduction Issue and Japanese Long-Term Strategic Trajectory [Jan 21, 2008]
Logos vs Pathos: Emotion and Reason in Japan’s Abduction Issue [Feb 26, 2008]
Hardly a Coincidence… [May 20, 2008]
|Gates and President Hu Jintao on Jan 11, 2011
(Source: Global Post (Larry Downing/Getty Images))
US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was in Beijing to discuss improving military ties between the US and China. On his arrival, the PLAAF tested their new J-20 fighter, apparently without telling President Hu Jintao.
The test signalled “the military’s opposition to Gates’s trip and to U.S. efforts to improve military connections between the countries,” according to John Pomfret at the Washington Post. This apparent disconnect between China’s military and civilian leaders is causing concern in the region.
To underscore the tension between the US and China, a Pew Research Center survey shows that “One-in-five Americans identify China when asked to name the country representing the greatest threat to the U.S., up from 11% in November 2009.” China tops this list of global threats, ahead of North Korea (18%) and Iran (12%), although only 22% of the population saw China as an adversary, as opposed to being a ‘serious problem’ (43%).
Gates flew to Tokyo from Beijing, leaving China with little to show: rejecting a “proposal by Gates to establish a US-China dialogue on strategic stability — in other words, on the future of nuclear weapons in Asia and mutual threat perceptions related to nuclear and missile defence capabilities.” It seems a waste of an opportunity to engage the US and their fears, and makes assurances that “China is opposed to hegemony and military expansion, and it will under no circumstances be part of or trigger an arms race,” all the less believable.
We can only hope that this is an attempt to keep the ball in China’s court ahead of Hu Jintao’s visit to Washington on Tuesday, where he will be given the chance to concrete his legacy.
For more information on Chinese-US relations and what to expect next week, check out the excellent articles below:
Building Cooperation in the US–China Military-to-Military Relationship by Michael Schiffer [IISS]
Hu Jintao’s State Visit: China and the Korean Peninsula by Victor Cha [CSIS]
A Conversation with Yang Jiechi [CFR]
Why US Keeps Hedging Over China by Richard Weitz [The Diplomat]
Mr. Hu Goes to Washington by Chris Patten [Project Syndicate]
Hu Jintao’s Upcoming U.S. Visit by Bonnie S Glaser [CSIS]
The Hu-Obama Summit by Michael J Green [CSIS]
Dialogue or Disaster by Zhang Wei [Project Syndicate]
Good news and bad news about U.S.-China relations by Michael J Green [Shadow Government]
Clinton, Gates Come Down Hard on China by Nick Ottens [Atlantic Sentinel]
|Kitazawa and Kim Kwan-jin on Jan 10, 2011
(Source: Yonhap News)
On Monday, Jan 10, Defense Ministers Toshimi Kitazawa and Kim Kwan-jin agreed to pursue an eventual Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement between Japan and South Korea. They hope to finalise the ACSA by the end of the year, and it would allow for logistics sharing in joint operations (primarily UN peacekeeping operations). They also noted their mutual interest in a possible General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA).
According to the Asahi, Japan is hoping to bring about better defense ties while President Lee Myung-bak is in office, clearly fearing a return to the antagonism of the previous president, Roh Moo-hyun.
Japan clearly has designs on formalised defence ties with South Korea, beyond being on the ends of mutual security agreements with the US, and so far so good. Japan has a stake in events on the Korean Peninsula, and it is hedging towards improved regional security. The only question is whether any agreements can withstand the shock of any contingencies around Takeshima/Dokdo or the opposition entering the Blue House once more.
The main opposition Democratic Party commented that “strengthening military cooperation with Japan without Japan’s sincere repentance for its war of aggression would go against the public sentiment here […] The discussions on military cooperation must stop immediately.”
|Kan and his Cabinet on Jan 14, 2011
(Source: Kantei Website)
On Friday, Jan 14, Prime Minister Naoto Kan tried to relieve pressure from the opposition by ditching Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku and Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Minister Sumio Mabuchi. Without the support of the opposition, Kan would be unable to pass the ¥92.4 trillion budget.
In Kan’s third Cabinet reshuffle, Deputy CCS Yukio Edano replaced Sengoku, and Mabuchi was replaced by Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Akihiro Ohata. Four new ministers were brought in: Kansei Nakano replaces Tomiko Okazaki, chairwoman of the National Public Safety Commission; Satsuki Eda as Justice Minister; former Finance Minister Hirohisa Fujii takes over as Deputy CCS; and controversially, Kaoru Yosano – former LDP fiscal heavyweight and founder of the breakaway Sunrise Party (Tachiagare Nihon).
News of Yosano’s appointment as Minister of State for Economic and Fiscal Policy and Minister for Comprehensive Reform of Social Security and Tax is a sign that Kan is knuckling down on tax and social security reforms. The Yomiuri also noted that Edano’s promotion signals a further attempt to marginalise the embattled former DPJ President Ichiro Ozawa.
The Cabinet shuffle leaves only one woman by Kan’s side: 43-year old Renho, also the youngest member of the Cabinet. Yosano, 72, is now the joint oldest member of the Cabinet (alongside Kitazawa) and he also has the unlikely portfolio of Social Affairs and Gender Equality (also replacing Tomiko Okazaki).
The reshuffle brought support for the Cabinet up to a hearty 32%, but there is already talk of what – or who – comes next. In the meantime, Kan has shown political courage in poaching Yosano, and demonstrated that he won’t back down – much like his wife already told us.
The Small Print
Opening the door for arms exports: Kyle Mizokami over at Japan Security Watch covered Japan’s current softening towards arms exports. The issue cropped up again during Gate’s visit to Tokyo on Friday. European defence companies are already banging at the doors.
|Japanese Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa
After meeting with US Defense Secretary Robert Gates, the Japanese Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa found that time to sit down and talk with the Washington Post about China’s new toys, Japanese military development, and ties with the US:
POST: In terms of Japan increasing its capabilities, the secretary of defense, when he was in China, was talking about his interest in seeing whether Japan also wanted to see Japan pursue its own fifth-generation fighter program, perhaps by purchasing U.S. technology or U.S. systems. Is that something that, given China’s modernization, that Japan will look at more seriously?
KITAZAWA: As I mentioned, the Chinese increasing military capability – mainly air and naval power – regarding this trend, Japan is open to its defense capability, mainly focusing on the defense of the southeastern island areas. And at the same time, we are producing what we call a dynamic defense force, which evolves from the traditional base defense capability concept to more of a high-readiness as well as an operating posture in order to deal with such a trend. As for the international trade regarding military equipment as well as production of military equipment, now it is an international trend to do development jointly with several countries, thereby trying to reduce the cost of a program. So we would like to consider measures to accommodate such a trend. This will have a relation to our three principles regarding arms exports, so we would like to have appropriate explorations.
POST: So does that mean you’re going to change your principles?
KITAZAWA: We will continue our studies and considerations. As you will know the basis of Japan is to pursue peace. And so we will permanently abide by this principle. But we also have to deal with the international trends as part of the international community, so we need to have measures to avoid being left behind of the trends. It has nothing to do with … changing the policies completely to become a country that exports its military equipment to other countries, thereby becoming a death march. It’s nothing like that.
It’s an interesting read, but nothing too juicy. I think there is an implied push away from Hatoyama’s devastating handling of the alliance, but again, this is nothing new: this month so far has been proof enough of a sea change.
On a final note, I wonder whether Kitazawa was speaking English during that interview and, as a consequence, who chose the word “death march” above: it is not a good phrase for any Japanese minister to use.
|Protest outside the Japanese Embassy in Seoul (source: AP via NPR)|
Some time earlier today, a South Korean fishing boat was apparently involved with a confrontation in Japanese-controlled waters near the disputed island Takeshima (Dokdo to Koreans, Liancourt Rocks to the rest of the world). From Xinhau:
Patrol ships of the both sides began the joint investigation at around 3:53 p.m. local time in waters about 36 sea miles southeast off the disputed islets in the Sea of Japan, to find out whether a 29-ton South Korean fishing boat intruded into Japan’s exclusive economic zone, Korea Coast Guard said in a press release.
Earlier reports said a South Korean coast guard vessel have involved in a confrontation with four Japanese patrol ships as of 2:00 p.m. local time.
Seoul’s coast guard dispatched the patrol vessel to conduct joint investigation with the Japanese side after the receiving report from the fishing boat “SSangyong”, which was chased by Japanese coast guards’ ships when it was sailing in waters about 42 sea miles southeast off Dokdo earlier in the day and then sailed back toward South Korean side, the press release said.
The timing of this incident could not be worse. With Japan hoping to convince the South Koreans to strengthen military ties between the two countries, there is a chance that this incident could revive South Korean anti-Japanese passions.
Of course, it is safe to assume that the timing is no coincidence either. During the talks between Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa and his South Korean counterpart Kim Kwan-jin, a dozen protestors gathered outside the Japanese Embassy in Seoul to condem the talks. All it takes is one fervent nationalist in a fishing boat to stir up some tension, and the house of cards could all come crashing down.
It’s early days yet, and we don’t know anything about the pilot of the boat and his motives, but I know where my money lies.