Thursday, August 14, 2014

Japan and South Korea in Osprey Maintenance Contract Fight

The 14 August 2014 hardcopy Yomiuri reports that Japan and South Korea will be competing for a maintenance contract for the U.S. Marine’s Ospreys in the Asia-Pacific region1. According to the report, the Ospreys, first deployed to the Futenma Base in Okinawa in 2012, must be taken apart every three years for full inspection and overhaul, so the competitive bidding will be held this autumn. The Japanese government will be deploying its own JSDF Ospreys beginning in FY2019, and hopes to keep maintenance costs down by servicing US Ospreys as well. It does not believe that it will be politically feasible to have the JSDF Ospreys serviced in South Korea, whose government will provide all out support for a South Korean company’s bid.

A couple of thoughts. South Korea does not have any Ospreys of its own nor, apparently, any plans to acquire them. So is this a replication of South Korea’s belated (and successful) bid for the 2002 FIFA World Cup? It’s possible; if this were Sankei that had picked on this story, it almost surely would include that twist. But South Korea’s prospective bid does make sense in its own right, as it would, if successful, enhance, albeit in a minor way, its own bilateral alliance with the United States.

It would be a nice and potentially fruitful political gesture by the Japanese government in the event of a successful South Korean bid to extend a hand and ask that the South Korean facilities be used for the JSDF Ospreys as well. If the South Korean government takes that hand, it will be a huge symbolic step forward in the Japan-U.S.-South Korea security relationship, not to mention the overall bilateral relationship. If, as is likely, it slaps it away, Japan will have lost nothing while South Korea looks peevish and unproductive. Not that I see any of this happening.

1. It made it to the front page, though. It’s the middle of August, which means slow times for news stories, barring a major accident or two.

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