Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has long dreamed of cutting the constitutional amendment that prohibits Japan from waging war.
“I am a patriot. I would think there are no politicians who are not patriots,” the stocky, tousle-haired prime minister told TIME magazine in 2014. “I say we should change our constitution now.”
Abe has previously called for a “departure from the postwar regime” in order to “bring back Japan,” arousing fear in the hearts of elderly Japanese pacifists who remember the bloody battles of World War II.
But in the face of left-wing opposition and East Asian hostility, it has appeared unlikely that Abe would ever realize his dreams — until now.
The ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and its ally Komeito won a two-thirds majority in Japan’s upper-house election July 3, finally granting Abe a two-thirds majority in both houses of parliament and the opportunity to propose constitutional reform.
Raising his bushy black eyebrows, the triumphant prime minister told reporters July 3 that the “LDP has held the goal of revising the Constitution since its formation, and it included that goal in its platform for governing.”
Ayako Doi, an associate fellow at the Asia Society, says Abe’s main goal has always been to revoke Article 9, the constitutional amendment the United States imposed after World War II that renounces war as a “sovereign right” of Japan.
“That was his grandfather’s wish, who was prime minister in the 1960s. In Abe’s mind, it has never been achieved,” Doi said.
If the upper- and lower-house successfully push through the proposal, a national referendum would be held that requires a majority vote to pass. The vote could go either way: an exit poll conducted by the Asahi Shimbun newspaper showed that 49% of voters supported constitutional revision, with 44% opposed — “similar to the Brexit vote,” Doi said.
Yet constitutional revision would seem to change little in a country that boasts the fourth strongest military in the world, according to a Credit Suisse ranking. Japan spends $41.6 billion annually on its Self-Defense Forces, which can now legally assist the United States and other allies after Abe pushed through a 2015 law reinterpreting Article Nine.
The new interpretation marked a historic shift away from pacifist foreign policy. For the first time since World War II, Japan now has the right to engage in overseas combat assignments, if only under limited conditions.
“Abe has moved steadily to allow Japan to play a greater role in security abroad ” said Michael Auslin, the director of Japan Studies at the American Enterprise Institute. “He has increased the military budget, dramatically improved Japan’s relations in Europe, and deepened an alliance with the United States.”
“The question of revision is more of a symbolic one,” he added.
The country currently owns 678 tanks; 1,613 aircrafts; and 16 submarines, pulling it ahead of India, France, and South Korea in the Credit Suisse ranking. Japan is a “world leader next to the U.S. in missile capability,” said Auslin, with an “excellent navy” and an “excellent coast guard.”
The nation sports some of the most modern and advanced military equipment in all of Asia, including modern reconnaissance drones, licence-built Apache attack helicopters, and new fifth-generation fighter jets. BBC calls Japan’s Self-Defense Forces the “toothless tiger:” equipped with top-notch equipment and highly trained, but prohibited from waging war.
Japan’s calls it all “Self-Defense Forces,” in part to circumvent Article 9’s pledge that “land, sea, and air forces will never be maintained.”
Abe has pointed towards this constitutional inconsistency as a reason for revision, claiming that 70 percent of constitutional scholars believe Japan’s Self-Defense Forces violate Article 9. But in the meantime, Japan can “do all of the things it wants to do,” Doi said. “Changing the constitution will only unnecessarily alarm or irritate its neighbors.”
Japan’s neighbors may serve as the very reason its considering revision. North Korea continues to threaten nuclear warfare, while China has grown increasingly hostile in territorial disputes over the East China Sea.
“There is certainly a power rivalry going on between Japan and China in the region,” said Nicholas Szechenyi, senior fellow at the Center for Strategic International Studies. “So any steps that Japan takes to strengthen its defense will likely threaten China.”
China’s official news agency, the Xinhua, has not responded favorably to Sunday’s election results, calling Abe’s win a threat to “regional stability” as “Japan’s militarization will serve to benefit neither side.”
China’s military is ranked just ahead of Japan’s, as third strongest in the world. China has good reason to fear a stronger Japan — partnered with the U.S., the country would make a formidable foe.
Unlike Beijing, Washington would embrace constitutional revision, Doi said, because Japan could “do more to contribute to whatever conflict the U.S. gets into, in terms of military support, weapons, or equipment.”
“Of course, publicly, they would never say that,” she added.
Although Japan and the U.S. have maintained a strong relationship since World War II, a certain blond-haired, billionaire real estate mogul may be rocking the coalition. According to Doi, the rise of presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump has made the Japanese “nervous and disturbed.”
“Trump is anti-Japanese in all aspects,” Doi said. Should Japan need future protection, “there’s doubt in the Japanese mind about whether the U.S. will be willing to commit its power and money,” she added.
Constitutional reform would allow Japan to establish a stronger military and strengthen its international ties, lessening its reliance on the United States and establishing a degree of autonomy.
Yet the Japanese public are still conflicted over Abe’s call for reform. The country prides itself on its unique pacifist policies, and in 2014, there was even a push to nominate Article 9 for the Nobel Peace Prize.
“People take pride in it,” one Japanese student explained. “I think it’s our stance on being ‘peaceful’ in a way, which is a little naive.”
Abe will likely pursue constitutional revision in earnest later this year, at which point Japanese sentiment will become more clear.
“This question of revising the constitution is one that combines issues of national identity and history,” Auslin said. “Japan must find its place among the nations of the world.”
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Original post @dailycaller.com
RANKED: The strongest militaries in the world
Posted by businessinsider.com
Sep. 29, 2015, 9:33 AM
Original article @businessinsider.com
Since the founding of the American republic, Asia has been a key area of interest for the United States for both economic and security reasons. One of the first ships to sail under an American flag was the aptly named Empress of China, inaugurating the American role in the lucrative China trade. In the subsequent 200 years, the United States has worked under the strategic assumption that it was inimical to American interests to allow any single nation to dominate Asia. Asia constituted too important a market and was too great a source of key resources for the United States to be denied access. Thus, beginning with John Hay’s “Open Door” policy toward China in the 19th Century, the United States has worked to prevent the rise of a regional hegemon, whether it was imperial Japan or the Soviet Union.
In the 21st Century, the importance of Asia to the United States will continue to grow. Already, Asian markets absorb over a quarter of American exports in goods and services and, combined, support one-third of all American export-related jobs.1This number is likely to grow, especially if the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) regional free trade agreement comes into effect.
Not only is Asia still a major market with two of the world’s most populous countries, it is also a key source of vital resources such as electronic components. Over 40 percent of the world’s hard drives, for example, are made in Thailand. The March 2011 earthquake that devastated Japan had global repercussions, as supply chains for a variety of products from cars to computers were disrupted worldwide.
Asia is a matter of more than just economic concern, however. Several of the world’s largest militaries are in Asia, including those of China, India, North and South Korea, Pakistan, Russia, and Vietnam. The United States also maintains a significant military presence in Asia. Five Asian states possess nuclear weapons (China, North Korea, India, Pakistan, and Russia).
The region is a focus of American security concerns not only because of the presence of substantial military forces, but also because of the legacy of conflict. The two major “hot” wars the United States fought during the Cold War were both in Asia—Korea and Vietnam. Moreover, the Asian security environment is unstable. To begin with, the Cold War has not ended in Asia. Of the states divided between communism and democracy by the Cold War, three of the four were in Asia (China, Korea, and Vietnam). Neither the Korean nor the China–Taiwan situation was resolved despite the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union.
The Cold War itself was an ideological conflict layered atop longstanding—and still lingering— historical animosities. Asia is riven by a variety of border disputes, including:
- Northern Territories/Southern Kuriles (Japan and Russia);
- Senkakus/Diaoyutai/Diaoyu Dao (Japan, China, and Taiwan);
- Dok-do/Takeshima (Korea and Japan);
- Paracels/Xisha Islands (Vietnam and China);
- Nansha/Spratlys (China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, and the Philippines); and
- Preah Vihear temple complex (Cambodia and Thailand)
Indeed, the various names applied to the disputed territories reflect the fundamental differences in point of view, as each state refers to the disputed areas under a different name. Similarly, there are various names applied to the various major bodies of water, such as “East Sea” and “Sea of Japan,” and “West Sea” and “South China Sea.”
These disputes over names also are indicative of the broader tensions rooted in historical animosities—enmities that still that scar the region. Most notably, Japan’s actions in World War II continue to be a major source of controversy, particularly in China and South Korea, where debates over issues such as what is incorporated in textbooks and governmental statements prevents old wounds from completely healing.
Similarly, a Chinese claim that much of the Korean peninsula was once Chinese territory aroused reactions in both Koreas. Indeed, the Cold War merely applied an additional, ideological layer atop a roiling mass of unresolved issues across Asia; the end of the Cold War did little to resolve any of these underlying disagreements.
It is in this light that one should consider the lack of a political-security infrastructure, or even much of an economic one, undergirding East Asia. While there is substantial trade among the various Asian states, as well as with the rest of the world, there is only limited economic integration. There is no counterpart to the European Union, or even the European Economic Community, as there is no parallel to the European Coal and Steel Community, the precursor to European economic integration. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is a far looser agglomeration of disparate states, although they have succeeded in expanding economic linkages among themselves over the past 47 years. And despite attempts, there is still no Asia-wide free trade agreement (although the Trans-Pacific Partnership, if passed, and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership would help remedy this gap to some extent).
Similarly, there is no equivalent of NATO, despite a mid-20th-century effort, ultimately failed, to forge a parallel, multilateral security architecture through the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO). Regional security entities, such as the Five Power Defence Arrangement (involving the U.K., Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, and Singapore in an “arrangement,” not an alliance), or discussion forums such as the ASEAN Regional Forum and the ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting, have been far weaker. Nor did an Asian equivalent of the Warsaw Pact organization arise. Instead, Asian security has been marked by a combination of bilateral alliances, mostly centered on the United States, and individual nations’ efforts at affecting their own security.
Important Alliances and Bilateral Relations in Asia
For the United States, the keys to its position in the Western Pacific are its five alliances (with Japan, the Republic of Korea, the Philippines, Thailand, and Australia), as well as its special relationship with Taiwan. These alliances are supplemented by a very close security relationship with Singapore, and evolving relationships with other nations in the region like Vietnam, Malaysia, and Indonesia.
The United States enjoys the benefit of sharing common weapons and systems with many of its allies, facilitating interoperability. Many nations, for example, have equipped their infantry with M-16/M-4-based infantry weapons (and share the 5.56mm caliber), F-15 and F-16 combat aircraft, and LINK-16 naval data links. Consequently, in event of conflict, the various air, naval, and even land forces will be capable of sharing information in such key areas as air defense and maritime domain awareness. This advantage is further expanded by the constant ongoing range of both bilateral and multilateral exercises, which acclimates various forces to operating together and familiarizes both American and local commanders with each other’s standard operating procedures (SOPs), as well as training and tactics.
Japan. The U.S.–Japan defense relationship is one of the centerpieces of the American network of relations in the Western Pacific. The U.S.–Japan Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security, initialed in 1960, has provided for a deep alliance between two of the world’s largest economies and most sophisticated military establishments.
Since the end of World War II, Japan’s defense policy has been distinguished by Article IX of its constitution. This article states in part, “the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as a means of settling international disputes,”2 in effect prohibiting the use of force by Japan’s governments as an instrument of national policy. This article, in turn, led to several other associated policies.
For example, one such policy was a prohibition on “collective self-defense.” Japan recognized that nations have a right to employ their armed forces to help other states defend themselves (i.e., to engage in collective defensive operations), but rejected that policy for itself—Japan would employ its forces only in defense of Japan. While new official interpretations, once fully realized, will make important exceptions for the United States, its only treaty ally, the terms of the U.S.–Japan mutual security treaty had the practical effect of committing the U.S. to defend Japan, but not committing Japan to defending the U.S.
A similar policy decision was made regarding Japanese arms exports. Tokyo, for a variety of economic and political reasons, has chosen to rely on domestic production to meet most of its military requirements. At the same time, until very recently, it chose to limit arms exports, banning them entirely to:
- Communist bloc countries
- Countries that are placed by the U.N. Security Council under arms exports embargoes; and
- Countries involved in, or likely to be involved in, international conflicts.3
One factor driving this decision was the desire not to have Japanese weapons identified with foreign wars.4 Consequently, Japanese weapons are some of the most expensive in the world, since they cannot amortize the costs across a larger export base.
As a result of these decisions, Tokyo relies heavily upon the United States for its security. In particular, it is dependent on the United States for deterring nuclear attacks on the home islands. The combination of the pacifist constitution and Japan’s past (i.e., the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki) have forestalled much public interest in obtaining an independent nuclear deterrent. Similarly, throughout the Cold War, Japan relied on the American conventional and nuclear commitment to deter Soviet (and Chinese) aggression.
As part of the U.S. relationship with Japan, the United States maintains some 38,000 military personnel and another 5,000 Department of Defense civilian employees in Japan, under the rubric of U.S. Forces Japan (USFJ).5 These forces include a forward-deployed carrier battle group (centered on the USS George Washington), submarine tender, an amphibious assault ship at Yokosuka, and the bulk of the Third Marine Expeditionary Force (III MEF) on Okinawa. U.S. forces regularly exercise with their Japanese counterparts; in recent years, these have expanded from air and naval exercises to practicing amphibious operations together.
Supporting the American presence is a substantial American defense infrastructure established throughout Japan, including Okinawa. The array of major bases provide key logistical and communications support for U.S. operations throughout the Western Pacific, cutting travel time substantially (compared with deployments from Hawaii or the American West Coast). They also provide key listening posts on Russian, Chinese, and North Korean military operations. This is likely to be supplemented by Japan’s growing array of space systems, including new reconnaissance satellites.
The Japanese government defrays a substantial portion of the cost of the American presence. At present, the government of Japan provides some $2 billion annually to support the cost of USFJ.6 These funds cover a variety of expenses, including utility and labor costs at U.S. bases, improvements to U.S. facilities in Japan, as well as the cost of relocating training exercises away from populated areas in Japan.
U.S.–Japanese defense cooperation is undergirded not only by the mutual security treaty, but also by the U.S.–Japan Defense Guidelines. Revised in October 2013, the new guidelines allow for the rotational deployment of American Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicles from Japan, as well as expanded cooperation between the two countries in outer space and in cyber-defense. A final, revised set of guidelines was expected by the end of 2014.7
Since at least the 1990 Gulf War, the United States has sought to obtain expanded Japanese participation in international security affairs. This effort has generally been resisted by Japan’s political system, based on the view that Japan’s constitution, legal decisions, and popular attitudes all forbid such a shift. Attempts to expand Japan’s range of defense activities, especially away from the home islands, have often been met by vehement opposition from Japan’s neighbors, especially China and South Korea, due to unresolved differences on issues ranging from territorial claims and boundaries to historical grievances and Japanese visits to Yasukuni Shrine.
These issues have been sufficient to torpedo efforts at improving defense cooperation between Seoul and Tokyo—a fact highlighted in 2012 by South Korea’s last-minute decision not to sign an agreement to share sensitive military data, including details about the North Korean threat to both countries.8 Consequently, both countries still rely on the United States as a de facto go-between and share data with Washington, which has ties to both. Despite a trilateral agreement among Washington, Tokyo, and Seoul that a more straightforward, direct relationship needs to be established, no formal agreement has yet been reached.9 Similar controversies, rooted in history as well as contemporary politics, have also affected Sino–Japanese relations and, to a lesser extent, Japanese ties to some Southeast Asian states.
Nonetheless, Prime Minister Shinzō Abe has pushed through a reinterpretation of the legality of Japanese participation in “collective defense” situations, as well as loosening restrictions on arms sales. The combination of reforms provides the legal foundation for much greater Japanese interaction with other states in defense arenas, including joint production of weapons and components, as well as the potential for interaction with foreign military forces. It also provides for the possibility of Japanese assistance to friendly nations that are under attack.
Read rest of article: Here
Japan military expansion: US and Japan revise Japan’s defense doctrine in face of rising China
The US and Japan agreed upon new guidelines for defense cooperation in New York on Monday that will fundamentally change how Japan’s military operates worldwide.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and his Japanese counterpart Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida agreed on revisions that will expand the role of Japanese forces by broadening the range of military situations that they can be deployed.
‘Japan, US struggle to contain China at any cost’
Japan’s Prime-minister has pledged his country’s support to South-East Asian nations in their disputes with China. Shinzo Abe said Japan will help the countries in the region control their borders – and keep their sea and air routes open. Political blogger Ryan Dawson thinks Japan’s involvement is not about working towards stability but rather about selling more arms.