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    World
     Feb 13, '14


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US blind to barbs in Japan defense plan
By Peter Lee

Takahashi described how the "gray zone crisis" is supposed to play out:
Japan will take care of the current situation by herself as long as it continues to be in [the] gray-zone. However, if it escalates to a military conflict, the situation will drastically change and fall under "Article Five" in the Security Treaty, where the two militaries will cooperate operationally. In this case, he primary player will be the SDF, and assistance from the US to Japan is to be expected.
And, in case you are wondering, Takahashi apparently doesn't think that the gray zone formula is only relevant for areas where



Japan claims sovereignty. Takahashi concludes:
[G]ray-zone crisis is also applicable to the South China Sea ... The development of a permanent body as well as procedures for operational cooperation and coordination will give additional flexibility to deal with challenges in the gray-zone.
If the "dynamic deterrence" in "gray zone crisis" formula is applied to future security agreements between Japan and the Philippines, Vietnam, and/or India as Japanese strategists already wish to apply them to the US relationship, then the priority in the South China Sea will evolve from "managing friction" to "preserving credible deterrence", a rather risky state of affairs.

As to whether the Philippines would be more likely to pursue a confrontational policy with the PRC as a result of the prospect of Japanese back-up, I would have to say Yes. In fact, I consider the Philippines' adoption of the inflammatory Hitler/Sudetenland rhetoric against the PRC part and parcel of a strategy to foreclose the possibility that the Philippines will be called upon to negotiate an arrangement with its overbearing neighbor (nobody negotiates with Hitler, after all) and justify a security arrangement with Japan that puts a couple of sizable bricks in the China-containment wall.

In fact, as the name implies, the whole concept of "collective self defense" can be seen as a strategy to further institutionalize alliances to negate the PRC's preferred posture of resolving its various regional issues bilaterally, quietly, and to the PRC's advantage. One might add that this strategy carries with it the greater potential that disputes with the PRC - now carefully conducted through maritime patrol vessels as peacetime sovereignty issues - will become militarized under the "deterrence" doctrine.

"Collective self defense" would allow the "dynamic/static deterrence" template to be applied to Asia, with Japan assuming the role of "static deterrent" backstop in place of the United States. It's a lower-risk strategy that placates the United States, avoids the political and diplomatic minefield of constitutional revision, and dodges the high profile hassle and risk of acting as the front-line military power, but is at the same time an important practical step in Japan's recovery of full military sovereignty.

This potential goes a long way to explaining why Prime Minister Abe might be willing to pay the political cost of pushing through "collective self defense" even though Japanese voters are cool on the idea and it seems to have only marginal significance within the context of the US-Japan alliance.

One might argue whether applying the "dynamic deterrence" formula to non-US alliances is good, bad, or indifferent - ever since former secretary of state Hillary Clinton was running the show, the basic assumption has been that an atmosphere of tension produces a virtuous cycle of action and Chinese reaction which pushes more Asian countries into the US camp, and therefore should not be discouraged - but it should in any evaluation be a focus of US concern.

After all, the alliance arrangement in the Pacific to date is hub-and-spoke, with the US as the hub and Japan, South Korea, and the Philippines as the spokes. With the creeping restoration of full Japanese military sovereignty and a sour regional attitude (quietly encouraged, I think, by Japan) that Japan and the Asian democracies can no longer rely completely on Uncle Sam's long-term mettle and have to look to themselves, the spokes are thinking of dealing more directly with each other, I would have thought that the United States might have some mental reservations endorsing the whole collective self-defense posture.

One assumes that strategic thinkers in the US military/think tank complex have some kind of a handle on this.

However, I don't see any public acknowledgement that, by supporting collective self defense they are potentially disintermediating the United States in the restructuring of the Asian security regime and putting a powerful lever in the hands of the Japanese government. I also reached out to two eminences in Asian security for comment, and they both stated that the potential for Japanese security freelancing in the context of "collective self defense" did not concern them.

So it's just me. Obviously CSD is now a done deal.

All that remains is the public relations bullshit, in other words the hyping of the China threat to justify some rather brisk, borderline constitutionally shady executive measures to assert the Japanese prerogative to "collective self defense".

Prime Minister Abe has assiduously cultivated the China threat narrative and, if a recent report from Mainichi Shinbun concerning the infamous air defense identification zone, or ADIZ, is accurate, has been cynically provoking it with the acquiescence of the US over the last few years.

English-language readers can get the story, thanks to the Shingetsu News Agency :
The Mainichi Shinbun obtained secret documents of the Defense Ministry (fortunately for them, and the public, the new secrets law is not yet in force to suppress such inconvenient information), which reveal that senior PLA officers had told their Japanese counterparts in May 2010 that they had established the ADIZ in the East China Sea, and that they were moving toward making it public in the future. Moreover, they invited dialogue with the Japan Self-Defense Forces on how the two countries' overlapping ADIZs might be managed in order to reduce the possibility of mishaps.

Moreover, the Japanese government was, according to the Mainichi Shinbun, well aware "in early 2013" that "final preparations" for the announcement of the Chinese ADIZ were underway.

We can safely surmise that if the Japanese government knew the declaration was forthcoming, that the US government, with its vast intelligence agencies, was also aware of it.

So the announcement of the Chinese ADIZ may have been a "surprise" to the general public, but it was certainly not a surprise to either the Japanese nor the US governments, which had in fact been tipped off by the PLA itself several years earlier.

What emerges, therefore, is not the sudden, aggressive, unilateral action by the Chinese government that has been so vividly portrayed by the world's media for the last couple months, but rather a careful, longterm process that culminated in the November 2013 public declaration.

It is also worth noting that in June 2010 - one month after the Japanese were informed by China of their intention to establish a large, overlapping ADIZ in the East China Sea - the Japanese government announced (unilaterally) an expansion of its own ADIZ in the East China Sea by 22 kilometers in order to include Yonaguni Island. [9]
So the real story of the ADIZ (which in my opinion also resembles the real story of the Captain Zhan uproar of 2010 and the Senkaku purchase of 2013 in its lineaments of Machiavellian plotting and, I might add, prestige media gormlessness in the face of the determined and less-than-100%-honest Japanese government PR operation) is that the Abe administration had been notified of the PRC's plans, sandbagged the PRC by waiting for the announcement in order to vociferously attack it, and used it to hype an exaggerated China threat and grease the skids for collective self defense, all with the apparent collusion of the US.

Or, as the Bloomberg article put it:
"What is lucky for the Abe administration is that China set up the ADIZ," said the LDP's Hirasawa, who tutored Abe as a child. "That proves that what the Abe administration has been saying is correct. China is taking a stronger and stronger stance."
What luck, indeed.

Notes:
1.Abe Eyes Window for Biggest Military-Rule Change Since WWII, Bloomberg, Feb 6, 2014.
2.Japan's Ban on Collective Defense to Affect Alliance with US, Jiji press,[taken down as of Feb 12].
3.Upgrading the Japan-US Defense Guidelines: Toward a New Phase of Operational Coordination, Project 2049 Institute, December 2013.
4.How to Upgrade US-Japan Defense Cooperation, Carnegie Asia Program, Jan 16, 2014.
5.Counter A2/AD in Japan-US Defense Cooperation: Toward 'Allied Air-Sea Battle' , Project 2049 Institute, March 2012.
6. Abe Eyes Window for Biggest Military-Rule Change Since WWII, Bloomberg, Feb 6, 2014.
7. See here
8. Upgrading the Japan-US Defense Guidelines: Toward a New Phase of Operational Coordination, Project 2049 Institute, December 2013.
9. The 'China Threat' Narrative Stumbles, Shingetsu News Agency, Feb 12, 2014

Peter Lee writes on East and South Asian affairs and their intersection with US foreign policy.

(Copyright 2014 Peter Lee)

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