Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A Normal Decision

Japan is about to put forth a plan to defend themselves in the seas around Japan and in their air over that same space. For any other country, such a shift would be a normal thing to do. For Japan, still in the shadow of World War II, this is a big deal. Defending Hokkaido from a Soviet airborne and amphibious assault is not high on the priority list of Japan's military these days. China, however, has moved up quite a bit:

In what would be a sweeping overhaul of its cold war-era defense strategy, Japan is about to release new military guidelines that would reduce its heavy armored and artillery forces pointed north toward Russia in favor of creating more mobile units that could respond to China’s growing presence near its southernmost islands, Japanese newspapers reported Sunday.

The realignment comes as the United States is making new calls for Japan to increase its military role in eastern Asia in response to recent provocations by North Korea as well as China’s more assertive stance in the region.

The new defense strategy, likely to be released this week, will call for greater integration of Japan’s armed forces with the United States military, the reports said. The reports did not give a source, but the fact that major newspapers carried the same information suggested they were based on a background briefing by government officials.

The new guidelines also call for acquiring new submarines and fighter jets, the reports said, and creating ground units that can be moved quickly by air in order to defend the southern islands, including disputed islands in the East China Sea that are also claimed by China and Taiwan. These disputed islands are known as the Senkakus in Japanese and the Diaoyu in Chinese.

I noted this shift in thinking a week ago, in the context of the China Question.

Japan has the capability of building up quite a strong military--especially if they focus on air and naval power with ground power in a supporting role for essentially amphibious operations in their own neighborhood. Remember, much like Western European NATO states during the Cold War, Japan's military only needs to focus on fighting right where they are and not for power projection. The logistics tail for operating far from home is expensive. Part of NATO's decline is the fact that home defense against the Soviet Union is no longer the main mission (until Russia arms up while also failing to wise up) while power projection to Afghanistan is the main fight for the alliance.

Japan is becoming a normal country, concerned about normal defense issues. Which China won't like, of course, preferring Japan to be guilt-ridden and cowed.