Wandering China

An East/West pulse of China's fourth rise from down under.

Japan to focus military on China threats [The Age/New York Times]


The new strategy, likely to be released this week, will call for greater integration of Japan’s armed forces with the US military, reports in Japanese newspapers said.

– – –

Japan to focus military on China threats
Martin Fackler, Tokyo
Source – The Age, published December 14, 2010

JAPAN is about to release new military guidelines that would reduce its heavy armoured and artillery forces pointed north towards Russia in favour of creating more mobile units that could respond to China’s growing presence near its southernmost islands.

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

The new strategy, likely to be released this week, will call for greater integration of Japan’s armed forces with the US military, reports in Japanese newspapers said.

The revised guidelines call for shifting some ground forces from the northern island of Hokkaido, where they were originally intended to fend off a Soviet invasion, to Japan’s southern islands to fill a ”gap” there. This gap was exposed by recent Chinese naval manoeuvres near islands in the Okinawa chain that raised alarm in Japan.

Under the reported revision, Japan would also reduce its tanks to 390 from 600, and cut the number of artillery pieces. Money saved would be used to build new submarines and buy next-generation fighter planes to keep up with China’s increasingly modern air force.

Ground forces would be maintained near their current level of about 150,000 personnel, the reports said.

The new guidelines also call for the creation of 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.

Details of the realignment, which was delayed a year by the change of government in September last year, have been leaking out since large joint military drills this month between Japan and the US.

Since initially clashing with the Obama administration over a US air base on Okinawa, Japan’s new Democratic Party government has been pulling closer to Washington, spurred by a bruising diplomatic clash three months ago with China over the disputed islands and fears about North Korea’s nuclear program.

The US has used the Japanese concerns as an opportunity to nudge Japan towards a more active role in the region.

In particular, Washington has proposed stronger three-way military ties that would include South Korea.

Newspaper descriptions of the new Japanese defence strategy did not mention joint drills with South Korea. They did, however, make it clear that Tokyo viewed North Korea and particularly China as its biggest threats.

During a visit to the region last week, Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, urged Japan to join US military exercises with South Korea.

In a meeting with Japan’s Defence Minister, Toshimi Kitazawa, Admiral Mullen said the two nations needed to support South Korea after North Korea’s deadly shelling last month of a South Korean island.

The proposal of three-nation drills has already met resistance in Japan, whose military is severely constrained by its pacifist, postwar constitution, and also in South Korea, where bitter memories of Japan’s brutal early 20th century march through Asia still run deep.

However, in recent days, Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan has raised the possibility of changing laws to allow Japanese forces to be sent to the Korean Peninsula to rescue Japanese expatriates in the event of a crisis, and also to search for Japanese known to have been abducted by North Korea in the 1970s and 1980s.

”We need to slowly move forward with consultations with South Korea about whether they would allow in transport aircraft from the Self-Defence Forces,” Mr Kan said.

NEW YORK TIMES

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Filed under: Beijing Consensus, Diaoyu Fishing Boat Incident 2010, Influence, International Relations, japan, military, New York Times, Politics, Strategy, The Age

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