Sunday, January 18, 2015

Amplifying on My “Defense News” Comments around the FY2015 Defense Budget

The Defense News report, FWIW the original full Q&A below, with five words added (in brackets) added so you won’t have to google. As I went back and forth, I was struck by how asymmetrically but strongly mutual the Japan-U.S. security relationship is.

1. How far is Japan in your opinion away from the dynamic defense force that has been touted as necessary?

Building a “Dynamic Joint Defense Force, which emphasizes both soft and hard aspects of readiness, sustainability, resiliency and connectivity, reinforced by advanced technology and capability for C3I, with a consideration to establish a wide range of infrastructure to support the SDF’s operation,” is a multiyear task still in its first year of implementation under the National Defense Program Guidelines for FY 2014 and beyond. Given the necessary overhaul of the hardware, software and wetware involved, it must be very much a work still in progress. Beyond that, I will not attempt to answer a question that panel of real experts establishing a baseline, then asking the suits and uniforms hundreds of questions over weeks to come up with a meaningful assessment.

2. Can Japan be a militarily useful ally to the U.S. on the terms that the U.S. wants (a huge question, I know, but could you pick at an example)?

Ideally, Japan would be a United Kingdom on the Pacific, willing to put its military assets to use on U.S.-led operations, with or without UN sanctions. That, of course, will not happen, even if Shintaro Ishihara were to become prime minister. (Okay, particularly if Ishihara were to become prime minister, but that’s another story.) However, Article 6 [of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty] enables the United States to use its military assets that are based on Japanese territory for “the purpose of contributing to the security of Japan and the maintenance of international peace and security in the Far East.” That is the equivalent of having a 51st state within shouting distance of the Korean Peninsula and Taiwan and willing to pay part of the upkeep. How much more can you ask for?

Well, the United States does want Japan to provide logistic support in the case of major emergencies in the Far East. In the case of the Korean Peninsula, it is plausible, given that the United States would presumably be operating under longstanding UN resolutions and that such emergencies certainly could be justified as a genuine security threat to Japan. But will Komeito agree to the necessary legislation? Also, without South Korea’s acquiescence, the constraints are likely to be such that a Japanese commitment would be of little value. As for emergencies around Taiwan, the Taiwan Act won’t cut it, and Japan will stick to its role as the 51st state. Beyond that, say, the Middle East, the Abe administration has its hands full getting minesweeping operations before hostilities have ceased past Komeito.

Beyond the actual use of force, though, Japan is remaking itself as a player in weapon system R&D and supply within the network (loosely defined) of states allied or friendly with the United States. Given Japan’s technological and manufacturing resources and existing cross-border ties, that is a major gain for the United States.

3. I would say the Japanese response to China is almost so calm and meek, Japan is actually doing just about the minimum possible. What do you think?

I agree. The Kan administration set a precedent when it failed to follow through on its threat to prosecute the captain of the Chinese fishing boat that allegedly bumped a Coast Guard vessel in Senkaku territorial waters. As for the Chinese maritime surveillance vessels entering the territorial waters, if those are not “gray area” incidents, where are we going to draw the line.

I have several plausible explanations for this, some interrelated. First, there are the psychological scars of the wartime experience and the seventy years that we have spent as a uniquely pacifist nation that have left us deeply conflict-averse. Second, the Senkaku Islands are a historically recent acquisition that have never been able to sustain a human settlement. Politically, Chinese aggression is easier to make light of than, say, an incursion into Tokyo Bay. Third, despite claims by Japanese officials that there is no legal issue to resolve, I believe that the Japanese government tacitly acknowledged the existence of a dispute when it agreed to leave the matter of jurisdiction over the EEZ around the Senkaku Islands pending when the two states signed the bilateral agreement on fishing rights in the East China Sea. I seem to be the only person talking about this (making me wonder if I am merely hallucinating the issue), but I think that it could be a contributing factor in inhibiting the behavior of the Japanese government.

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