New Imperial China and the US-Japan Alliance

The rise of China poses many questions, foremost of which is will a powerful China be a responsible member of the international community, complying with established rules and norms of the current global system? Or will it defy global standards, and strive instead to project its own rules and norms, thereby challenging the world order established by the United States?

Source: New Imperial China: A Challenge for the US-Japan Alliance | East-West Center | www.eastwestcenter.org

Short but good, this sharp piece offers some interesting – and still relevant – perspective on the escalating tensions in Northeast Asia.

Japan Debates the Issue of Comfort Women

How to Cleanse Asahi’s Widespread ‘Misreports’ on Comfort Women
Masaaki Sugiura 
The Global Forum of Japan
1 December 2014, Vol. 7, No. 6

Venerable Japanese political commentator Masaaki Sugiura, offers a rebuttal to sensationalist reports in the Japanese media (specifically the Asahi Shimbun) about Japanese soldiers and “comfort women,” local girls and women from territories conquered in Japan who were essentially forced into prostitution serving Japanese soldiery before and during World War II.

Masaaki does not seem to be associated with the kinds of nationalist factions that make a habit of whitewashing Japanese behavior in the war. What he does, however, is call into question the dominant Korean and Chinese narratives about “comfort women,” and suggest that the nature and extent of the problem may well have been exaggerated in China and Korea for domestic political purposes.

An interesting issue, and an interesting read.

Is China Playing Straight in the East China Sea?

The Japan-China Maritime and Air Communication Mechanism: Operational and Strategic Considerations
Marta McLellan Ross

Japan Institute of International Affairs

Recent tensions in the South China sea have raised the possibility that confrontational behavior designed to make a point can all too easily escalate into something far more dangerous.

Apparently eager to avoid this scenario, China and Japan have begun developing a series of protocols to ensure that both countries can make their points in the standoff without things spinning out of control. Marta McLellan Ross of the Council of Foreign Affairs suggests in this paper, however, that these ostensibly laudable efforts may be nothing more than a Chinese tactic to neutralize Japan.

A fascinating read.

WAPO: Japan has a flag problem, too

Japan has a flag problem, too – The Washington Post.

I have long wondered about Japan flying the rising sun flag on its warships. It always struck me as a near-deliberate provocation, and an oversight that the Maritime Self Defense Force would still fly it, especially now that they are flying on Japan’s new mini-aircraft carrier helicopter destroyer.

Japan has a flag problem, too - The Washington Post

 

I would wager that Japan will hold fast on continuing to use the Rising Sun flag as a naval ensign, just as it will continue to use the angry red meatball on the wings of its planes. The nation is embarking on a new era, one that will see it bearing a greater part of its defense burden than anytime in 70 years, thanks to a rising China and US empire fatigue.

The time to have asked Japan to dump the Rising Sun would have been 40 years ago. Now that the nation is rekindling its martial roots, don’t bet on them dropping what little of its military heritage is left.

 

Op/Ed: Our Ally in Tokyo

“Stand With Our Ally in Tokyo”
Rep. Randy Forbes

The Diplomat
18 February 2014

Representative J. Randy Forbes, (R-VA), writes this editorial in The Diplomat urging us to stand behind our ally in Tokyo. He makes some good points.

But this is a piece of political advocacy, not a balanced treatise. Forbes needs to be both the political leader and the strong diplomat. While we should stand behind all of our alliances, we should also make clear to our allies that there are conditions.

If Japan provokes China, we will not back them. If Japan fails to negotiate settlements with China in good faith, we will not back them.

And if Japan seeks our backing, they must publicly own up to, and apologize to the Chinese people for the atrocities committed against them in the name of the Chrysanthemum Throne prior to 1945. Failure to do any of that undermines our legitimacy in the eyes of not just the people of China, but of the people in Asia as a whole.

There are no white hats in Northeast Asia. We cannot ignore China’s creeping hegemony, but we cannot ignore the slow-motion effort of Japan’s militant right wing to rewrite history, either. Before we decide to throw our full weight behind one side or the other in this conflict, let us make certain we are acting in accordance with all of our values, not just one.

India and Japan Grow Closer

The Expanding Indo-Japanese Partnership”
K.V. Kesavan

East-West Center
July 10, 2013

K.V. Kesavan of the Woodrow Wilson Center writes that the growing institutional ties between Japan and India lay the groundwork for closer economic, political and even military ties. No doubt China will be less than happy to hear it.

Allies on the High Frontier

English: Backdropped by a blue and white part ...

The unpiloted Japanese H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV) approaches the International Space Station. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Strategic Imperatives for US–Japan Outer Space Cooperation
Crystal Pryor
East-West Center

December 7, 2012

The irony of publishing an essay advocating closer cooperation between the U.S. and Japan in the military sphere on the anniversary of Pearl Harbor is palpable, to the point where you wonder if the wags at the East-West Center did this on purpose.

Regardless of intent, Crystal Pryor brings up an issue that is easy to forget in these fraught times in the East China Sea: space. China is on a tear in space, accelerating its manned orbital program and beginning the long effort that will take taikonauts to the Moon. And let’s not forget – China has proven it can take out just about any satellite it pleases.

Pryor calls for closer peaceful cooperation between the U.S. and Japan in space, and little wonder: experience on the International Space Station revealed some avenues for cooperation. But Japan could be forgiven for having a hidden agenda. Space, even unmanned, is increasingly important to national security and economic growth, and Japan cannot defend its orbital interests alone. Overt military cooperation with the U.S. in space would be an outright provocation. Civilian partnerships, though, could lead to deeper ties if events develop.

Japan’s problem, though, is that NASA is in a torpor. It will have to either rouse the beast, or it will need to find ways to build alliances with the growing bevy of private space companies. Near term, bet on the latter.

Japan has Territorial Issues with Russia, too

“On Trenin’s Proposal for Russia to Return Four Disputed Islands to Japan”
Hakamada Shigeki
GFJ Commentary
February 28, 2013

As if having to argue with China and Korea over rocks was not complex enough for Japan, a third territorial counterparty is (re)emerging in the form of Moscow. It seems like, since everyone else in the neighborhood wants to clarify territorial issues, the Russians are chiming in as well.

This time, the tone is conciliatory, even though it does not come from the Kremlin. Dmitri Trenin, who directs the Carnegie Moscow Centre, put out a paper in December of 2012 proposing a mechanism by which four islands taken by the USSR from Japan at the end of World War II would be returned to Japanese control.

Professor Hakamada Shigeki of the University of Niigata prefecture is cool to the proposal. While conceding that any such opening is worth pursuing, he is under no illusions about Trenin’s position (a Western-funded think tanker rather than a Kremlin insider) and Putin‘s continuing need to prove to Russians he is a strongman.

To expect Russia to concede territory for nothing would be unrealistic. But Hakamada sees other wheels at work. China looms large for Russia (especially after Xi Jinping’s recent visit) but Putin will not want to close out other options in the region. Working out longstanding territorial disputes with Japan would allow Russia to play the conciliator in a Sino-Japanese standoff, and would keep Japan in the game as an alternate destination for Siberian natural gas.

The source of the suggestion is Machiavellian. To have the suggestion come from the Carnegie Centre could be serving as Putin’s trial balloon, giving him a chance to judge Japanese reaction without committing himself publicly.

The next move, as Hakamada hints, is Japan’s. It will be interesting to see how this plays out. Clearly, the diplomatic game is afoot in East Asia.

Japan’s Coming China Reckoning

“Japan’s China Policy — Engagement, but for How Long?
Victoria Tuke
German Marshall Fund of the United States
May 29, 2012

Japan’s political system tends to place a premium on postponing tough decisions. One such decision, argues Warwick Ph.D. candidate Victoria Tuke, cannot be put off for much longer: the nature of Japan’s relationship with an emerging China.

Tuke argues for a strategy that balances Beijing and Washington without taking sides. It is a persuasive argument and one that Fredrick the Great would have appreciated.

One could argue that Japan in the past has shown little inclination to stand twixt two giants, but this is not the core challenge with Tuke’s thesis. Rather, the question is whether Beijing’s actions – unlikely to be friendly to Japan – will permit Japan to strike such a balance.

Japanese Science: Anything but Foreigners

Kyoto University, one of the most prestigious ...

Image via Wikipedia

“Revamp Math and Science Education, Kazuo Nishimura, AJISS-Commentary

The Japanese Institutes of Strategic Studies, a conservative think-tank in Tokyo, has published this op-ed by Kazuo Nishimura, a Professor of Mathematical Economics at Kyoto University.

In the op-ed, Nishimura calls for starting science education earlier, changing the structure of elementary courses, and keeping high-school kids in compulsory science courses longer in High school. More controversially, he also calls for a complete overhaul of the nation’s grading system.

All of these are good proposals, especially the latter, but the one policy Nishimura shies form is the one most likely to make a difference in the near term: allowing greater numbers of foreign scientists to come into Japan to work and offer their efforts to Japanese companies. Indeed, he believes this is the problem.

A fascinating article.

The PLA from a Japanese Viewpoint

China Security Report – The National Institute for Defense Studies.

The better-known analyses of China’s defense posture and its implications for the rest of the world tend to come from American, European, and Australian sources, but the developed country with the most immediate and pressing need to understand China’s intentions is Japan.

This year, for the second time, Japan has issued its China Security Report detailing its view of China’s spending, its strategic and military needs, and its near-term intentions. Being a public document and being from Japan, many of the conclusions are couched in language that is diplomatic and polite, framing its conclusions in terms of China’s concerns. This report is worth the read, both because it is pithy and because it offers a viewpoint that compliments the published assessments at the Pentagon.

Current Studies in Japanese Law

Japanese law has always been something of a mystery to those who do not practice the profession, but given the unique relationships between government, business, and even organized crime in Japanese society, the law in Japan makes for interesting reading.

If you’re interested in the Japanese legal system, labor unrest, or crime in Japan, this book is sure to be of interest. It covers issues such as strikes, police, the court system, and the practice of law in Japan.