Tuesday, August 01, 2006

A Formidable Ally

Japan is reacting to potential threats from North Korea and China by bolstering their defenses and their alliance with America, as the annual report by Japan's Defense Agency makes clear:

This year's report devotes a full chapter to the realignment of the roughly 50,000 U.S. troops in Japan and efforts to meld Japanese and U.S. forces into a more effective and more closely coordinated force.

The realignment, the result of years of negotiations, involves a streamlining of the U.S. military in Japan — including the transfer of some 8,000 Marines off the southern island of Okinawa to the U.S. territory of Guam. It also entails closer coordination on intelligence-gathering and in ballistic missile defense, a major concern for Japan. ...

While Japan is not significantly increasing expenditures, it is overhauling its military in other ways.

Japan's Cabinet last month endorsed a bill to upgrade the Defense Agency to a full-fledged ministry, reflecting the growing role of the military at home and abroad. The upgrade would bolster the agency's status within the government and put it in a better position to negotiate for more funds.

Japan now spends about $43 billion on defense each year, putting it behind the United States, Russia, China and Britain. It has a standing army of about 150,000, and its air force and navy are among the most powerful in Asia.

Japan is a significant power in the western Pacific and has the economic power to be a far bigger player.

Sure, Japan's army is small, but that is not significant. It is large enough to defend Japan and provide high quality forces for power projection in the region for limited contingencies. And Japan's navy and air force are high quality. So Japan couldn't invade China. China couldn't invade Japan. But on, below, and in the air over the seas between them, Japan would smash up the Chinese even without American help. Absent the use of nuclear weapons, of course.

China's power is growing. And they may become a major power in my life. But the Chinese aren't ten feet tall. And we have tall friends, too. Oh, and we aren't too shabby either.

So one more time, and with feeling, I wouldn't trade places with China. Japan is just one of the reasons.

UPDATE: Mad Minerva has thoughts and has tracked down the English language version of the Japanese report cited.

And Strategypage writes about what China's stubborn refusal to deal with North Korea has given Peking:

In the past, North Korean bouts of international madness occasionally served Beijing's strategic ends. Kim's Stalinist regime rattles the U.S. and scares Japan. However, China and Russia now have extensive trade relations with Japan and South Korea. The South Korean economic powerhouse invests in China.

Japanese fear is producing changes in Japanese military doctrine. No one in Asia wants a militarily resurgent Japan, particularly China.

But North Korea's ballistic missile barrage has ignited The Rising Sun.

The Japanese government is now openly cooperating with the U.S. on anti-ballistic missile defense, including the deployment of U.S.-made Patriot Pac-3 anti-missile missiles to Okinawa. Defense is one thing -- Japan's "Self-Defense Forces" are designed to defend Japan. Offensive strike capability is something else entirely.

Last month, the London Times wrote that "Kim's adventures" had radicalized Japanese opinion. "'The vast majority of Japanese agree that we need to be able to carry out first strikes,' said Yoichi Shimada, a professor of international relations at Fukui Prefectural University." According to Shimada, Japan must "have an offensive missile capability."

Japan could have offensive missiles in a couple of months. For that matter, Japan could produce a nuclear weapon within a few weeks.

So remember this when you get the urge to wax on about China's patient, long-range strategy. I think we attribute ancient wisdom to mere secretiveness and inflexibility.