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Asia's Game of Thrones
Japan: We May Patrol South China Sea

Shinzo Abe is facing determined opposition in parliament to his proposed laws authorizing a more assertive foreign policy. But to hear his top military brass talk, you wouldn’t guess it in a million years.

The Wall Street Journal ran an interview today with Admiral Katsutoshi Kawano, chief of the Joint Staff of the Japan Self-Defense Forces, who indicated that Japan might be induced to overcome its scruples and start regularly patrolling the South China Sea given China’s recent aggressive moves in the region. A few choice excerpts:

“Of course, the area is of the utmost importance for Japanese security,” Adm. Kawano said. “We don’t have any plans to conduct surveillance in the South China Sea currently but depending on the situation, I think there is a chance we could consider doing so.” […]

Troops from Japan’s navy have been conducting joint drills this week with the Philippine navy around Palawan Island, just a few hundred kilometers from the Spratly Islands, which are at the heart of a territorial dispute between Beijing and Manila. The session features Japan’s P-3C surveillance aircraft, which Adm. Kawano described as having “a superb ability for detecting submarines and other objects in the water.” […]

“In the case of China, as we can see with the South China Sea problem, they are rapidly expanding their naval presence and their defense spending is still growing,” Adm. Kawano said. “Also because there is a lack of transparency, we are very concerned about China’s actions.” […]

He said Japan would also like to conduct more joint exercises with Australia and India. “I believe the Japan Self-Defense Forces boast an extremely high level of proficiency,” Adm. Kawano said. “We can have a positive impact on other militaries.”

China’s ears just pricked up. This is precisely the kind of talk Beijing does not want to hear.

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  • rheddles

    More than talk, the Philippinos are willing to cruise with the Japanese. The WWII Japs were no kinder to the Philippinos than the Chinese. The Chicoms know that.

    • Kevin

      True, but…

      I wonder if the CCP leadership doesn’t (perhaps subconsciously) actually welcome this. I get the impression many of their recent moves are not because they want to improve their security or wealth but rather to buy support from nationalists with the CCP and China more generally. What they want is to be seen standing up for China, reversing previous humiliations and making China great. To cultivate this image they need foreigners, especially old enemies like Japan, to make lots of noise and push back so it becomes a big dramatic thing. Then (assuming they triumph) they will have been seen stand up against and even triumph over enemies that humiliated China in times past. If they just pusharound the (quite weak) Vietnamese and Filipinos in the South China Sea it will not be much of a triumph and the nationalists will shrug – if they push around the U.S. and Japan they will be seen as having restored China’s glory and rightful place as the leading country to the approbation of the nationalists.

      Or so it might be interpreted. Of course if this is right it is a big problem for IR theory – Realists look at power, capabilities and other tangible factors while Liberals look at international norms and institutions, none really focus of the psychological need of the leadership of rising powers from Loius XIV to Hitler for glory, such retrograde motivations are not really something modern political science focuses on.

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