Saturday, September 06, 2014

Securing Their Southern Flanks

Japan is looking to their southern flank and shoring it up.

Increased Indian-Japanese strategic cooperation is on the agenda:

Japan and India agreed on Monday to strengthen strategic ties as Asia's second and third biggest economies keep a wary eye on a rising China, and agreed to accelerate talks on the possible sale of an amphibious aircraft to India's navy.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi also agreed to speed up talks on a so-far elusive deal on nuclear energy cooperation.

"The two prime ministers reaffirmed the importance of defense relations between Japan and India in their strategic partnership and decided to upgrade and strengthen them," Abe and Modi said in a statement after a summit in Tokyo.

The nuclear angle is interesting. Presumably Japan would help India with nuclear energy issues.

But keep in mind that India is the one with nuclear weapons. Cooperation can be multi-faceted, no?

Japan is also going to help Australia with their troubled submarine program:

Japan and Australia are leaning towards a multibillion-dollar sale by Tokyo of a fleet of stealth submarines to Canberra's military in a move that could rile an increasingly assertive China, people familiar with the talks said. ...

Discussions have since moved rapidly from engine-technology transfer to a full build in Japan, with the goal of replacing by the 2030s Australia's six outdated Collins-class boats with 12 scaled-down versions of the 4,000-ton Soryu, the world's biggest non-nuclear subs.

The Collins boats aren't much smaller than the Soryu class. Why make them smaller when the distances Australia must operate in require large boats?

Or is this sub sizing a crewing issue thing (Australia is having problems manning their existing subs (and keeping them at sea)? A Collins has 58 crew while a full-size Soryu has 65.

Heck, as long as Japan is willing to sell to Australia, why not solve Taiwan's submarine problem, too, as I noted in an aside in that post?

It is good that Japan is making these plans. It is also good that China's neighbors are reacting to the rise of Chinese power.

Yet don't pretend that this means we aren't absolutely necessary as the power that can knit together various bilateral agreements to keep neighbors thinking of resistance to China rather than accommodation.

But it is interesting that Japan isn't content to be a regional bilateral partner with America, relying on America to tie together other bilateral defense ties into a coherent defensive front against Chinese aggression:

As Prime Minister Shinzo Abe explained in 2013: "From now on the Japan-U.S. alliance must effect a network, broad enough to ensure safety and prosperity encompassing the two oceans [Pacific and Indian]. The ties between Japan and America's other allies and partners will become more important than ever before for Japan."

Japan's National Security Strategy for 2013 highlighted the convergence of interests and ideals that underlies the policy. "Japan will strengthen cooperative relations with countries with which it shares universal values and strategic interests," the document states, pointing to examples such as South Korea, Australia, Association of Southeast Asian Nations members and India. ...

The country has also become a leading provider of security assistance to some Asean countries, including the Philippines, Vietnam and Indonesia. For all the unfortunate tension in relations between Tokyo and Seoul over historical issues, the Japanese and South Korean armed forces continue to pursue quiet security cooperation.

Not that this is a Japan policy that necessarily is blamed on President Obama. This has been progressing for over a decade, the article notes. Worries about our current president's reliability may give Japan a greater sense of urgency, but the motivation is the balance of power that is shifting largely due to China's persistent and strong armament programs.

So Japan seeks to shore up their southern flank all the way to the Indian Ocean.