Archive for the ‘Japan’ Category


Does China have its sights set on naval dominance?

January 21, 2014

Not in the near term, surely, but recent reports indicate that the People’s Liberation Army-Navy (PLAN) has medium and long term goals that are well beyond regional command.   While the US Navy remains well ahead of China both quantitatively and qualitatively, the diffusion of technology is narrowing the qualitative gap, and the shrinking of US military budgets is narrowing it quantitatively.  Indeed, budget woes are also threatening the qualitative edge – basic R&D and the military industrial base itself are endangered, some claim.

The answer is going to have to be more burden sharing amongst our allies.  Japan is under direct threat from Chinese missile advances – at least 1000 missiles are currently targeted at Tokyo alone, and China plans on building 50,000 new missiles per year in the near future.   Another US ally on the other side of the world – Israel – is also under constant threat of missile attack and has developed systems and tactics to defeat them.  A three way relationship between the US, Israel and Japan combining the technological prowess of all three with the operational experience of Israel should be able to build a real counter to this threat without breaking the budget of any one nation.

In the near and medium terms, at least, if real missile defense can be mastered, then the most serious Chinese naval threat can be muted, and buy another few decades when the US Navy does not have to contest for global control of the seas.



A new “scramble for Africa?”

January 16, 2014

The Scramble for Africa is a term for the 19th century colonization of that continent by all the major European powers.  It is considered one of the darkest periods of European imperialism, and many claim the sad state of much of the continent today is a direct legacy of that period.

Might we be seeing a new scramble for Africa, this time featuring Asian powers?  China has been actively pursuing both economic and political interests in Africa for nearly two decades, and now Japan is responding in kind, with Prime Minister Abe having recently returned from a major trade mission to several African nations.  The Japanese deny that they are in direct competition with China, but even if indirect, they are certainly in competition.

The East Asian nations are not the only ones.  India has always been involved in East Africa and are the nearest major power, with direct sea lanes across the Indian Ocean.  Over the last two years, I have noted how several Muslim states – in particular Qatar – are seeking to gain influence in North Africa and the Sahel.

None of this, of course, is akin to 19th century colonization, and there is no new Berlin Conference on the horizon where the map will be carved into spheres of influence.  But in many ways, this 21st century scramble is a more sophisticated version of the same geopolitical impulse.  Just as British power was perceived to be on the wane in the late 19th century, thus opening up the world to competition from other powers, so, too, is US power seen on the wane.  Into the perceived power vacuum, other powers – both regional and global – are jockeying for position before the next macrodecision begins.

The Four Phases of the Long Cycle . . . We are in the coalitioning phase; macrodecision (previously war but possibly Great Power Collapse) is fast approaching

The Four Phases of the Long Cycle . . . We are in the coalitioning phase; macrodecision (previously war but possibly Great Power Collapse) is fast approaching


Japan’s New National Security Strategy

January 9, 2014

The new document released last month is the clearest official signal yet of Japan’s intent to leave its post-war semi-pacifism behind.  It also deeply and firmly enmeshes Japan into the US-led alliance system designed to check Chinese ambitions.  There is a clear arc around China – Japan, Australia, and India (although India has no formal alliance with the US, they have deepened their ties with Australia and Japan).

English translation here.




US, S. Korea and Japan struggle to find common ground vs. China’s new ADIZ

December 4, 2013

China may have found a wedge issue to divide the three main parts of the maritime alliance to its east.  While the US, South Korea and Japan have thus far formed a common opposition to China’s newly released Air Defense Identification Zone, the Americans are seem to be offering a sort of concession, while the Koreans are prepared to challenge the Chinese in a way that would put them at odds with Japan.  Breaking Defense lays it all out here:

All three democracies have now flown military aircraft through China’s new ADIZ without complying with Beijing’s demand to file flight plans in advance and to communicate via radio once in the zone. The issue between the allies is whether commercial flights should follow China’s unilaterally declared rules (reprinted here on the FAA website).

The governments of Japan and, more quietly, South Korea have gotten their national airlines not to. The US State Department, however, just quietly reiterated the longstanding US policy that airlines should comply with all countries’ flight rules — which presumably would include the new ones put out by China, although State didn’t say so outright.

Meanwhile, South Korea is contemplating expanding its own long-standing ADIZ to challenge China’s — but it might do so in a way that would cause conflict between Seoul and Tokyo as well. So while the US, Japan, and South Korea have presented a united front so far; they may not be able to keep it up as the stand-off drags on.


Note:  this will be the last post of the week, as I will be traveling.  Posting will resume on Monday, Dec. 9.



Japan to aggressively push back against China

October 31, 2013

“We will show our resolve as a nation, that changes in the status quo by force cannot be tolerated,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told a gathering of Japan Self Defense Forces.  In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, he firmly stated Japan’s intention to counter Chinese imperialism.  Abe has also reiterated that while the Japanese military is constitutionally limited to self defense, he believes that includes “collective self-defense,” i.e., the military support of other alliance members who are under attack or threat of attack.   On the one hand, a more active and assertive Japan is crucial to US strategy in the Western Pacific, but on the other hand, an assertive Japan also makes China more likely to become more aggressive herself.    It will take confident leadership on the one hand and steady resolve on the other to balance those two forces.


China trains it sights on Okinawa

May 20, 2013

A Chinese general has set off alarms in both Japan and the United States over his claim that Japanese-controlled Okinawa is in fact traditionally within the Chinese sphere of influence.  Major General Luo Yuan did not claim Chinese sovereignty over Okinawa and the rest of the Ryukyu Islands, but he did refute Japanese sovereignty over them, claiming that the islands “paid tribute” to China for half a millenium, while the Japanese only took control in the late 19th century.

Okinawa is the site of several key United States military installations and would be an absolute lynchpin in the developing Asian Pivot strategy, controlling the southern approaches to Japan and South Korea (and, by extension, to the Aleutian Islands and Alaska).

npacific map

China’s counter strategy to the Pivot is to dominate the First Island Chain.  Prying Okinawa away from Japan would isolate Japan and Korea and drive a wedge in the India/Australia/Japan triumvirate for which the US would provide off shore balancing power.


Chinese fishing flotilla fizzles

September 20, 2012

The reported flotilla of 1000 Chinese fishing boats headed to the Senkaku Islands to protest Japanese government ownership of the islands have not materialized.  The Japan Times reports that a smaller number – about 700  boats – are fishing in a region about halfway between the islands and mainland China, over 100 miles away.  A smaller group of fewer than 25 boats may be within 75 miles.  There are no reports of any Chinese military ships in either mix.  There is no indication of whether the initial report was a hoax or just over hyped.