China talks about a ‘peaceful rise,’ even as it probes for weakness. Apr 6, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 29 • By TOD LINDBERG
Naha, Okinawa Prefecture, Japan
Japan's Air Self-Defense Force base on Okinawa shares a runway with the civilian planes on this island about 1,000 miles southwest of Tokyo. When the American-made Japanese F-15s scramble, as they often do these days, the civilian traffic awaiting takeoff pulls over to a side taxiway. It must be a pretty decent air show for those with a window seat.
The F-15s scramble in pairs, perhaps a minute apart. Two flights of two roared off as I watched from a balcony at the base HQ, then another pair 20 minutes or so later. Most likely, they were off to intercept traffic inbound for airspace over Japan’s Senkaku Islands, to which China has laid a territorial claim that both Japan and its powerful ally, the United States, categorically reject. Planes from the Chinese mainland have repeatedly been probing to test the Japanese response. Scrambling to meet the provocations has been more or less a daily affair since last year. More Japanese F-15s are redeploying to Naha Air Base to meet the mounting demand.
There is no immediate crisis in the South China Sea, nor is anyone expecting one to arise any time soon. But Japanese wariness befits the situation. The practical implication of China as a rising economic and military power has been Chinese willingness to test its neighbors in the “gray zone” of conflict, as Japanese officials characterize encounters like the ones for which the F-15s have set out.
I was in Tokyo and Okinawa with a small group of Americans as a guest of the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Japan of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is in the process of reorienting its national security posture. Article 9 of Japan’s 1947 constitution (drafted by the United States after defeating the imperial military government 70 years ago) renounces war as a sovereign right and forbids maintaining land, sea, and air forces. Yet as the F-15s indicate, Japan has considerable military power at its disposal, including significant naval assets and the quietest diesel submarines anywhere. The Japanese constitution contains no prohibition on defending the homeland. Hence the official “Self-Defense” designation of the branches of the Japanese military.
Last year, the Abe government promulgated a reinterpretation of Article 9 designed to allow Japan to participate in collective self-defense measures—to come to the assistance of an ally under attack, as Japan would hope to be assisted. Some in Japan, including Abe, would like to amend the constitution to reduce the constraints under which the country operates. For now, the political support for such a move is insufficient, so reinterpretation is the order of the day. The postwar Japanese tendency toward pacifism is sufficiently strong, however, that concerns from the left about reemerging Japanese nationalism and militarism receive a wide hearing both in Japan and abroad. And indeed, some politicians on the right encourage it by giving expression to a sanitized version of Japanese militarism from the 1930s through the end of the war.
But there is a much better explanation for the new approach to security policy than resurgent Japanese militarism, and it is reducible to a single word: China. North Korea is inscrutable and unpredictable; no one in the neighborhood has reason for complacency there. China, by contrast, is a known quantity, and what Japanese diplomats and defense officials in and out of uniform see is a neighbor that talks about a “peaceful rise” but would also like to secure a sphere of influence in which other countries readily defer to its wishes—the peace of deference to the strong.
Japanese officials note that every time a power vacuum has occurred in the region, China has actively sought to fill it, from the colonial French bugout in the 1950s, to the fall of Saigon in the 1970s, to the closing of U.S. air and naval bases in the Philippines in the 1990s. No one thinks China is eager for a war with any of its neighbors; its 1979 invasion of Vietnam was the act of a China in very different circumstances from those of rapidly advancing prosperity today. But if there’s a door, China will knock on it, and if there’s no answer, China will try the handle.
Cuisine as statecraft. Mar 16, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 26 • By DAVID DEVOSS
The Japanese, seemingly stuck in political doldrums, sluggish economic growth, and waning international influence, are pushing past those frustrations with a new government-led campaign to sell the world—and their own children—on their country’s distinctive traditional cuisine.
A top U.S. diplomat needlessly insults an ally.1:37 PM, Mar 4, 2015 • By ETHAN EPSTEIN
Sherman marched right into it. At an event in Washington on Friday, the U.S. under secretary of state for political affairs, Wendy Sherman, held forth on the subject of the prickly relations between South Korea and Japan -- and did so in a way that seemed to blame the victims in the situation.
Why immigration probably won't save Japan from demographic decline.2:28 PM, Feb 25, 2015 • By JONATHAN V. LAST
Over at Reason, Pete Suderman has a great piece about how Japan is looking to robots to help care for its geriatric citizens. It’s funny and creepy and you should totally read it.
3:38 PM, Jan 24, 2015 • By DANIEL HALPER
President Obama confirmed and condemned the death of a Japanese man at the hands of the Islamic State in this statement:
7:32 AM, Jan 5, 2015 • By DANIEL HALPER
Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe will "express remorse" for World War II, the Associated Press reports.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Monday that his government would express remorse for World War II on the 70th anniversary of its end in August.
The diplomatic courtship of South Korea’s president.Sep 29, 2014, Vol. 20, No. 03 • By DENNIS P. HALPIN
America’s “pivot” to Asia is rapidly going nowhere, but diplomatic challenges in the most economically vibrant region of the world still cry out for attention. These include the brash assertiveness of a rising China, the emergence of an erratic, nuclear-armed young North Korean leader, and the embrace of neo-nationalism in an aging and insecure Japan. One nation stands out as a source of balance—South Korea, personified by its astute and pragmatic president, the first woman to hold the job.
Sep 1, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 47 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
A foolish optimism about human nature can’t withstand even a nodding acquaintance with history. If you’re of a certain age you may well remember seeing this photo. It was published years ago in Life magazine, among other places. And once seen, it is not easily forgotten. The Scrapbook retrieved the copy reproduced here from the endlessly fascinating World War II Today website, maintained and curated since 2008 by Martin Cherrett (ww2today.com). Here is Mr. Cherrett’s description:
5:14 PM, Jul 1, 2014 • By DENNIS P. HALPIN
In 2007, during his first term as Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe penned a work titled Toward a Beautiful Country, My Vision for Japan. The recent re-examination of the 1993 Kono Statement on the Imperial Japanese military’s use of “comfort women” during World War II (a euphemism for sex slaves), which was presented to the Japanese Diet on June 20, is the antithesis of the actions of “a beautiful country.” It represents a backward step, reopening a dark chapter in 20th-century history, which most of the world woul
Tiananmen Square and truth-telling. Jun 9, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 37 • By DENNIS P. HALPIN
In a March 28 speech at the Körber Foundation in Berlin, China’s president, Xi Jinping, called for historical truth-telling. He had in mind the Rape of Nanking, the massacre carried out by Imperial Japan’s forces in 1937-38 during their occupation of the then-capital of the Chinese Nationalists (the city is now called Nanjing).
11:51 AM, Apr 28, 2014 • By JERYL BIER
President Obama spent only one night in Japan last week on his current swing through Asia, but the State Department estimated total "lodging nights" required by the president and his entourage could run around 2,172, and the use of "functional rooms" (presumably conference rooms and the like) could last up to 29 days.
8:09 AM, Apr 24, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
President Obama met some Japanese robots and didn't like it. "I have to say that the robots were a little scary, they were too lifelike.