Japan is making pro-active moves towards playing a more significant role as a military might, especially in the wake of the need to balance China’s ‘expansionary attitude and manoeuvres’.
The Sydney Morning Herald story:
Australia-Japan military ties are a ‘quasi-alliance’, say officials
Date October 26, 2014 – 11:45PM
Asia Pacific editor for Fairfax Media
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Tony Abbott with Japanese PM Shinzo Abe in Parliament House in July. Photo: AFP
Military ties between Australia and Japan have been growing so fast that they amount to a “quasi-alliance”, according to Japanese officials.
Ties have expanding so rapidly that each country had become the other’s most important defence partner behind the United States, said the officials, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Another official, Takuma Kajita, principal deputy director of the National Security Policy Division of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said in an interview that an unprecedented decision this month to explore the possibility of jointly developing Japan’s coveted submarine technology showed the “two countries would be tied up in the most important area of security”.
He said this and other recent moves, including the sharing of Australian space surveillance intelligence (which could potentially be linked to ballistic missile defence systems) reflected years of bipartisan commitment, recent challenges from China and also a close personal rapport between prime ministers Tony Abbott and Shinzo Abe.
“Mr Abe wants to raise the relationship between Japan and Australia considerably, his instructions are very clear, and he wants good trilateral relations between Japan, Australia and the US,” said Mr Kajita.
A unique “Australia-Japan Defence Co-operation Office” was established within Japan’s Ministry of Defence on April 1 this year in order to handle the rapid escalation of activity.
Publicly, especially in Australia, officials have been circumspect about the pace of change in part to avoid triggering an escalatory response from China.
Officials say there are no plans to progress the relationship into a formal treaty that would include reciprocal obligations to defend each other in the event of war.
And Japan is constrained by a sceptical population and pacifist constitution imposed in the wake of World War II that, among other things, requires its armed forces to operate as the Japanese Self-Defence Forces.
But some analysts warn that the Australian public has not yet grasped the dimensions and implications of deepening military ties, including the possibility of being drawn into armed conflict over the Senkaku Islands (Diaoyu in Chinese) in the East China Sea.
“The dual-tightening of Australia’s alliance with the US and its defence partnership with Japan is the most important strategic decision that Australia has made in the post-cold war era,” said Malcolm Cook, a regional security expert at Singapore’s Institute of Southeast Asian studies.
“If there is fighting in the East China Sea then the US will be drawn in. And can you imagine the pressure for Australia to become involved?”
Japanese sources say that the two most dangerous incidents occurred just months ago, in May and June, when Chinese fighter planes used provocative measures including firing afterburners to intercept Japanese surveillance planes at a time of Sino-Russian military drills.
But the temperature has cooled considerably since then.
A high-level maritime co-operation forum resumed on September 25, after a 28-month interregnum. And what had been almost daily Chinese maritime incursions into Japanese-controlled waters have dropped substantially in frequency and intensity.
“Chinese ships now enter Japanese territorial waters every two weeks, for exactly two hours,” said one Japanese official who was present at the maritime meeting. “It used to be four, six or even eight ships but now it is only three or four,” said the official, while noting that Chinese activities in the “contiguous zone” had not diminished at all.
Japanese officials say the continuing incursions are “unacceptable” but nevertheless the atmosphere had become conducive to a first meeting between Mr Abe and China’s President Xi jinping on the sidelines of next month’s APEC meeting in Shanghai.
The new Australia liaison office in Tokyo illustrates how Australia has leapfrogged all nations except the US in Japanese military thinking.
South Korea was listed as Japan’s second most important military partner in a strategy document released less than a year ago, but those ties have cooled due to disagreements over the memory of World War II.
Japan under Prime Minister Shintaro Abe is seeking to reinterpret ate and probably to amend the ‘pacifist’ post World War Two Constitution, paving the way for Japanese military forces to fight abroad. Since the times of General of the Army Douglass McArthur, Japan only allowed to have a ‘Defence Forces’.
United States supports this notion with the excuse that Japan should play a more significant role to defend itself.
Obviously, China is disturbed by this development.
The BBC story:
9 October 2014 Last updated at 07:10
China media criticise ‘growing’ US-Japan military ties
Papers in China criticise the US for pursuing closer military ties with Japan and Vietnam.
Ties between China and Japan have been strained in recent months over territorial disputes in the East China Sea.
According to reports, Japan and the United States are revising their mutual defence guidelines to pursue a wider partnership.
The US, in an interim report released on Wednesday, said that the new guidelines “are in response to new threats extant in the world and to a new willingness of Japan to embrace a greater role in the world”.
Responding to the report, an article in the Liberation Army Daily warns the US is “inviting calamities by nurturing a tiger”.
“By requesting Tokyo to support its military actions, the US is still sticking to the old arrangement of Japan taking instructions,” notes the article written by Liu Qiang, a strategic expert at the Liberation Army Institute for International Relations.
Japan may become the “destroyer of peace” because it feels threatened and wants to expand its military, and Washington may not be able to control it, he cautions.
“If Washington is not on its guard against Tokyo’s military development and continues to allow it to expand, the US may not be able to control its development effectively in the future. By turning a blind eye to Japan’s actions, Washington is inviting trouble, and that is worrisome,” he adds.
A commentary in the People’s Daily overseas edition points out that the US and Japan are treating China as an “imagery enemy”.
“The idea of sharing hegemony between Washington and Tokyo is secretly developing. With the permission of the US, Japan may become a new international police…Such dangerous development is worrying many countries,” it says, warning that the alliance will instead “increase distrust and worsen conflicts” in the region.
Chen Yan, an expert on Japan affairs with the Qianjiang Evening News, however, points out that the new guidelines will not affect China.
“The US will not confront China because of Japan, and in reality, Japan will not want to go to war with China too. Both are only putting up a gesture to pressurise China,” he argues.
Meanwhile, several state-run media outlets, including Xinhua News Agency and the People’s Daily website, have published photos of a completed airport runway and ongoing construction works on Yongxing Island (Woody Island), the largest of the disputed Paracel Islands in the South China Sea.
The Philippines and Vietnam are two of several nations currently engaged in territorial disputes with China over the islands.
Several other media outlets note that the completion of the 2,000m-long runway will allow military jet to station, and “it will hugely raise China’s defence capability in the Spratly and Paracel Islands”.
Elsewhere, some state-run media outlets criticise US-Vietnam ties as Washington eases its ban on arm sales to Hanoi.
The US announced last week that it would partially lift its decades-old embargo on providing lethal military support to Vietnam to help improve its maritime security.
“Hanoi is looking to the US for support in its maritime territorial dispute with China, especially since tensions between Vietnam and China escalated earlier this year amid a dispute over China’s oil drilling operations in the South China Sea,” notes an article in the China Daily.
However, the commentary reminds the Southeast Asia state that “it is only one small piece on the US’ strategic rebalancing chessboard” and there is “deep acrimony and distrust” between the two countries.
“Besides, both need to be mindful that their strengthened military ties do not compromise each country’s relationship with Beijing. After all, a head-on confrontation in the South China Sea would serve no one’s interests,” it warns.
In the wake against China’s aggressive military-centric expansionary attitude and premonition, Japan started to exert herself into the clout of anti-China sentiments around Asia. Despite China’s strong opposition, Japan has continued on the new policy which would see a balance to China’s military might in East Asia.