Defending Japan

Offshore in a Dangerous Neighbourhood

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Wikileaks on Japanese-US-Australian intelligence cooperation

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Prime Minister Shinzo Abe with President George W. Bush and Prime Minister John Howard in Sydney, September 8 2007
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe with President George W. Bush
and Prime Minister John Howard in Sydney, September 8 2007
(Source: MOFA)

This one was a bit of a surprise earlier in the week, but it offers useful insight into what Japan’s poor data OPSEC has done to its reputation.

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).


Written by James

2011/01/23 at 00:03

Weekend Update: Jan 16 2011

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#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

Defense Minister Kitazawa Talks to WaPo

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Japanese Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa
Japanese Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa
(source: Sankei)

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.

Written by James

2011/01/14 at 11:06

S Korea and Japan: Hopes Dashed?

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Protest outside the Japanese Embassy in Seoul
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.

Written by James

2011/01/14 at 01:15

Is China the Reason Behind Japan’s Push for S. Korean Ties?

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Japanese and Korean Flags
Possible partners against rising China? (source: World Security Network)
Charlie Reed at the Stars and Stripes quotes Denny Roy of the East-West Center in Hawaii as saying:

“North Korea provides the political excuse for what would otherwise be a strategic move” against China, Roy said. “It’s a fig leaf.”

“Japan-South Korea defense cooperation is an example of what the Chinese want to avoid,” said Roy, a senior fellow at the center. “China has long understood, and feared, that its rise might cause other countries in the region to cooperate strategically against (it.)”

Certainly, regardless of what motives are behind the Japanese push for better ties, China will interpret it as US-directed encirclement. That would no doubt accelerate Chinese military development and give the Chinese a sense of urgency.

Labelling China a threat would only escalate tension and become a self-fulfilling prophecy, [Bruce Klingner at the Heritage Foundation] said. But moves to strengthen Japan-South Korea military cooperation represent long-range goals for the U.S. and its democratic Asian allies to hedge against China’s massive and growing military.

The US has to tread a delicate line between hedging against and placating China’s ambitions and Japan will play an important role in maintaining that balance. That will require a lot of foreign policy savvy on the Japanese side, something that was in short supply in 2010.

Written by James

2011/01/13 at 11:02

Special Feature: Domestic Japanese Perspectives on Defence

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[Twice monthly ‘Special Feature’ posts will feature historical, cultural, or theoretical discussions of Japanese security.]

A Brief History of Japanese Defence in Context


Support for Article 9 Reform (Pew Global Attitudes, March–April 2006)

Support for Article 9 Reform (2006) via The American

Emerging from the Second World War, humiliated by defeat and as the first nation to fall prey to the atomic age, Japan was left with the nationalistic former representatives of the wartime state and the left-wing antimilitarist pacifists scarred by their wartime experience. The American occupation authorities at GHQ purged war criminals from the government and its institutions and tried to ensure that Japan would not rearm as Germany had after the Great War. Through negotiations between GHQ and the Japanese government, they crafted their answer in Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution (1947):


Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes. 2) In order to accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized. [1]

Article 9 was only possible through the security guarantees provided by the American occupation, but the idealism of this paragraph was shattered by the realities of the Cold War. The Korean War forced the creation of the National Police Reserve in 1950, which was reorganised into the National Safety Force in 1952, before being formed into the Self-Defense Force in 1954. Each change in name and mission pushed the boundaries of Article 9 and increased the friction between the autonomists – who wished for rearmament – and the antimilitarists – who were unwilling to see Japan be dragged into war again. The antimilitarists were also against the US military protection that guaranteed Japan its security, and their historic opposition to the 1960 renewal of the 1951 Treaty of Mutual Security and Cooperation that led to the resignation of the Kishi cabinet.

As Japan sought to find its feet in the postwar world, it was guided by a general vision promoted by Prime Minister Shigeru Yoshida, later known as the Yoshida Doctrine. This saw defence from the position of Mercantile Realism: let the US provide security for Japan and instead focus the national effort on rebuilding the economy. This was the dominant defence mindset until Japan’s ‘chequebook diplomacy’ raised US ire in the Gulf War.

As a economic powerhouse, and with much talk of Japan ‘overtaking’ the US, the US pushed Japan to make ‘physical’ contributions to global security, and Japan responded by pushing through the International Peace Cooperation Law (1992). The ‘PKO Law’ allowed the SDF to take part in international peacekeeping operations as non-combatants, significant because it allowed Japanese boots on foreign soil for the first time since the Second World War.

One of the proponents of the PKO Law was the now much-maligned Ichiro Ozawa (then a powerful LDP figure). In 1993, Ozawa published ‘Blueprint for a New Japan‘ in which he called for Japan to become a ‘normal nation’, that is one with an active security role, particularly in UN-guided global security activities.

Prime Minister Jun’ichiro Koizumi did more to ‘normalise’ Japan than any other prime minister to date, at least in terms of precedents. Under a series of Special Measures Laws, he allowed the Coast Guard to sink a suspected North Korean spy ship, dispatched SDF units in support of reconstruction efforts in Iraq, and helped logistical efforts in the Indian Ocean. Since Koizumi’s departure from office, the mission of equal significance has been the dispatch of MSDF vessels to the coast of Somalia in anti-piracy efforts.

As Japan faces the threats of rising China, and the nuclearisation of the Korean peninsula, it will no doubt undergo further changes. How these changes develop will depend on the views of the people who guide them.

Major Perspectives on Defence

Japan has several major schools of thought regarding the role of Japan and the SDF.*

Pacifists are typically still opposed to the existence of the SDF, which they regard as unconstitutional and a military in anything but name. They hold Article 9 as sacred, and also reject the need for a US military presence in Japan. The key political proponents of this philosophy can be found in Japan’s left-wing parties, namely the Communist Party and the Social Democratic Party.

Middle-Power Internationalists adhere to the Yoshida Doctrine and see the US security alliance as essential to maintaining Japan’s role as a global economic power. They are likely to be open to continuing Japan’s UN-based multilateral security role, but fall short of allowing Japan to have a ‘normal’ military. There are fewer Mercantile Realists these days, but the LDP’s Yasuo Fukuda, Yohei Kono and Koichi Kato could be said to be one of them.

Normal Nationalists are the dominant force in Japanese politics at the moment. They are follow the spirit of Ozawa’s ‘normal nation’ philosophy and are willing to reinterpret the constitution and SDF to improve burden-sharing within the alliance. Like the middle power internationalists, they are supportive of Japan’s international security role but are typically less enthusiastic about the US military presence. Their ultimate goal is for Japan to be an equal partner of the US. The leadership of Democratic Party is most typically associated with a softer version of this perspective, particularly Ozawa himself and former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, concerned with international security, while the neo-conservatives of the LDP, Shinzo Abe and Taro Aso, follow a more hawkish perspective.

Neo-Autonomists seek a full constitutional revision to allow a full-spectrum military capable of offensive as well as defensive operations. They are the only group likely to be open to a change in the Three Non-Nuclear Principles, seeking independence from the US nuclear umbrella. They are also likely to view the US presence as a violation of Japanese sovereignty. There are few neo-autonomists in government, but Takeshi Hiranuma, Terumasa Nakanishi and Shintaro Ishihara are among them.

[*The labels come from Richard Samuels’ “Securing Japan” (2008) research, with some further help from Tsuyoshi Sunohara’s discussion of ‘Japan’s shifting security orientation’.]

Japan Today

As it currently stands, Japan is heading towards the ‘normal nation’ that Ozawa envisioned. Pacifism is a much-valued principle that many Japanese citizens still support (at least in principle), but its support has been eroded as the US pushed Japan to secure itself in the Cold War. The Yoshida Doctrine fell by the wayside in the 1990s as Japan adapted to the ‘New World Order’ and Internationalism. Since Koizumi’s time in the Kantei, the normal nationalists have made great strides, although the balance between ‘normal’ and ‘independent’ is a delicate one. As Japan faces up to future threats, the balance could tip. Of any nation, the US holds the key in preventing Japan from remilitarising in earnest, but the final decision will lie with the Japanese people. As it stands, autonomy is unlikely to come about anytime soon.

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Written by James

2011/01/10 at 22:00

Weekend Summary: Jan 9 2011

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Kim Jong-il bring happiness into our blogs
Is Kim Jong-il laughing at us?
by Borut Peterlin via Flickr

North Korea offers unconditional talks

On Jan 5, the North Korea’s state media carried an open-armed call for the resumption of reunification talks.

“It is the review of the past three years that the issue of inter-Korean relations can never be solved by confrontation but it only sparks off an armed clash and war.

In order to mend the north-south relations now at the lowest ebb …. We call for an unconditional and early opening of talks between the authorities having real power and responsibility, in particular.

[…] We are ready to meet anyone anytime and anywhere, letting bygones be bygones, if he or she is willing to go hands in hands with us.

For the great cause of the nation present is more important than yesterday and tomorrow is dearer than present.”

Although Prof. Kim Yong Hyun of Dongguk University in Seoul called it “a message targeted at China and the US,” the US was skeptical, however some suggest the offer led to US and South Korean military units standing down from their special standby alert status.

For his part, Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara suggested that “if North Korea takes concrete steps, there is no reason for us to reject the reopening of the six-party talks as China has proposed.” There remains, of course, the ever-present worry that entering talks will simply give the North Koreans the attention they wanted. He also planned to “strengthen cooperation with China and Russia” by dispatching Akitaka Saiki, director general of the Foreign Ministry’s Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau and Japan’s top envoy to the six-party talks, to Beijing and Moscow to ask for their cooperation.

Whatever North Korea’s motives, all sides understand that dialogue must be continued in the future, the real question is under what framework should we talk, and who should be at the table.

Description unavailable
Maehara and Clinton
by #PACOM via Flickr


Maehara and Clinton meet

On Jan 7, Maehara met US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and South Korean Foreign and Trade Minister Kim Sung Hwan in the US for discussions on US-Japan security. They agreed to review the “Common Strategic Objectives” drawn up in 2005 with China’s naval advances in mind, as well as to cooperate in resource security following the China’s rare earth gambits.

Maehara and Clinton also discussed Iran’s nuclear ambitions and the thorny issue of the Marine Corps air base at Futenma.  Maehara apparently told Clinton that Japan was working “to obtain the [Okinawa Prefecture’s] consent,’ which was taken to be a plea for US understanding of Japan‘s stance of not setting a deadline for settlement of the issue. Coincidentally, DPJ Secretary-General Katsuya Okada began a two-day visit to Okinawa today to discuss the Futenma problem with locals.

After meeting with Clinton, Maehara and Kim met National Security Advisor Tom Donilon where discussion of the North Korea issue continued.

Members of a Chinese military honor guard marc...
The People’s Liberation Army
via Wikipedia


Concerns rise over China’s role in the world

After the flurry of news from China’s military over the New Year period, the hand-wringing continues. The J-20 is big news, picked up by the Wall Street Journal and CNN. It’s been thoroughly examined, as much as grainy photos allow, and used as a stick to bash the Pentagon’s recently announced budget cuts.

There has been further worry that China now has a taste for aircraft carriers. After the earlier news that the carrier formerly known as Varyag was now up and running, a Hong Kong businessman seems intent on buying the former jewel of the British Royal Navy, HMS Invincible. The move has understandably raised concerns in defence circles.

However, the real worrying news came from a Kyodo News press release that China would “consider launching a preemptive nuclear strike if the country finds itself faced with a critical situation in a war with another nuclear state.” If true, this would be contrary to China’s long-standing commitment to never consider pre-emptive nuclear strikes. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei denied the report and labelled the report “groundless and out of ulterior motives.” It seems that the ‘documents’ that Kyodo News used for their reports may be more than five years old, and while the authors were from the PLA, it is unclear how official this debate has been, let alone whether it has been adopted or not.

Presumably, US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates will discuss this issue during his three-day visit to China this month to try to increase the rising powers transparency by encouraging dialogue, particularly between the two countries’ militaries. There will be plenty more to discuss, but there is some concern that the diplomatic front will have little effect on China’s expanding military. Gates will drop by Japan and South Korea after his visit, and Chinese President Hu Jintao will visit Washington on Jan 19.

Meanwhile, China and Japan met to discuss counterterrorism cooperation and French counter-intelligence began an informal investigation of  possible Chinese industrial espionage at Renault, a French car manufacturer.

USS Carl Vinson on patrol in the Pacific 2003-...
USS Carl Vinson
via Wikipedia


Small Print:

Where is Kim Jong Un, the Dear Leader’s alleged successor?

Japan confirms it will run in the election for a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council for 2012-13. Japan first publicly stated its desire for permanent seat since 1968 (see Ch. 19 in Japan’s International Relations, edited by Glenn D Hook [2005]).

USS Carl Vinson, a Nimitz-class nuclear powered aircraft carrier, will be conducting exercises in Japanese waters in the East China Sea on Jan 10. The drills with the MSDF will include communications and cross-decking practice. Some say that the Carl Vinson will be covering for the George Washington which is dock-bound for maintenance.

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Written by James

2011/01/09 at 22:00