Defending Japan

Offshore in a Dangerous Neighbourhood

Posts Tagged ‘Korea

Weekend Update: Jan 23 2001

with 2 comments

#1: Obama Hears a Hu

Presidents Barack Obama and Hu Jintao at a joint press conference in Washington on January 19.
Presidents Barack Obama and Hu Jintao at a joint press conference
in Washington on January 19.
(Source: Reuters)
 
 

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 developmentalthough 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 embarrassmentor not, but Obama handled himself well, perhaps noticeably better than his Chinese counterpart. [Transcript here via CFR]

 

#2: Kan: “Japan-U.S. alliance is the foundation of Japan’s foreign policy”

Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa arrives at Kadena AFB, Okinawa on January 20
Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa arrives
at Kadena AFB, Okinawa on January 20
(Source: USAF)
 
 

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?

Appropriately timed, Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa announced that Kadena AFB’s F-15 three-week training sessions would take place in Guam from April.

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.

 

#3: South Korea and North Korea agree to high-level military talks

South Korean and North Korean guards at Panmunjom
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

Taiwan’s disappointing missile test = US arms opportunity?

Abductee Yaeko Taguchi spotted in North Korea last year?

Parents of abductee Keiko Arimoto fail to secure MOFA official interview tape in damages trail

Written by James

2011/01/23 at 17:56

Weekend Update: Jan 16 2011

with 2 comments

#1: US-China arms race?

Gates and President Hu Jintao on Jan 11, 2011
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]

#2: Japan and South Korea come to an agreement on ACSA

Kitazawa and Kim Kwan-jin on Jan 10, 2011
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.”

Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara followed up on Kitazawa’s visit on Saturday to discuss trade and security cooperation between the two states.

#3: Kan rearranges the furniture

Kan and his Cabinet on Jan 14, 2011
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.

China discussing stationing troops in North Korean ports?

South-North diplomatic hot-line up and running again in Korea

JCG plans to develop new high-performance 1,000-ton patrol boats this year

Prosecutors to drop the case against Senkaku footage leaker

Written by James

2011/01/16 at 22:00

Mid-Week Summary: Jan 5 2011

leave a comment »

Aearial view of Kadena Air Base on Okinawa
Aerial view of Kadena Air Base via Wikipedia

Japan, US agree to relocate F-15 training from Kadena to Guam

This is part of a large move relocating forces from Okinawa to Guam, but is only a minor victory for the Japanese government who remain unable to effect any larger move.

 

US drops AEGIS system software upgrade development collaboration with Japan

The US was unwilling to give Japan the right to approve US sales of the software, which could have included Taiwan. Japan’s strict interpretation of its arms export control laws have effectively banned arms exports except for collaboration with the US.

The export of technologies which are exclusively related to the design, production and use of “arms” as defined in paragraph 5 above (hereinafter referred to as the “military technologies”) is treated in the same manner as the export of “arms.” However, in order to ensure the effective operation of the Japan-United States security arrangements, the Government of Japan paved the way for the transfer of the military technologies to the United States as an exception to the Three Principles. [MOFA]

The US will continue development on its own.

 

Maehara hopes for dialogue with North Korea, abduction issue still holds precedence

With US Ambassador Stephen Bosworth in town, East Asia is talking about how they should engage North Korea. The North Korean abduction of Japanese citizens in the 1960s – 1980s has been a major sticking point both  bi-lateral working groups and the six-party framework more broadly. With North Korea adamant that the issue is resolved, Maehara seems a little too optimistic.

 

Strong hopes for bi-lateral meeting between ROK and Japanese Defense Minister

The media has been abuzz with talk of closer cooperation between Japan and South Korea in areas of security and defence. In a New Year’s interview, Maehara was mistakenly quoted – so he says – as saying, “I hope that Japan will form an alliance with South Korea also in the field of security”, but the optimism still stands.

During his visit next week, Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa will propose that the two countries provide operational logistical support (Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement), hold more high-level defence meetings, and share intelligence on North Korea (General Security of Military Information Agreement). The Korean reaction, however, is more reserved.

Meanwhile, the US is prodding both sides of the virtual alliance to engage in tri-lateral exercises. Good luck with that.

 

Santa brings China some new toys: an aircraft carrier, a next-generation fighter, a diesel submarine and a land-based anti-ship ballistic missile.

The Shi Lang carrier, formerly Soviet Navy Varyag, might be launched in July. Although it most likely be used to train carrier pilots until China can produce its own carrier (ONI estimate: 2015). The Yuan-class submarine also surfaced for a few photos.

With news of the DF-21D anti-ship missile reaching initial operational capacity is sending shivers down the spines of China hawks. The land-based ballistic missile will give the PLA green-water area denial capabilities that would cause problems in the event of a cross-Straits crisis.

Finally, images of a J-20 fifth generation fighter taxiing has caused much skepticism and speculation among defence blogs, but all we know is that it’s big and can roll around an airfield.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Written by James

2011/01/05 at 22:00