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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