Home' Asia Pacific Defence Reporter : APDR_Feb2013 Contents Asia Pacific Defence Reporter FEBRUARY 2013 57
of the cost of food production. So any steep oil price
increases will increase food costs over and above
what scarcity alone is doing.
The answer to the opening question is ‘yes, they
can and will resist, and they will bring in India, too’. The
‘why’ here is important, and it focuses firmly on Japan.
For Japan, China poses the existential threat of long-
term strategic dominance. So Japan is moving quickly
to play a role similar to that of eighteenth century
Britain; the offshore ‘swing power’ position which
maintains a regional balance of power.
Also simultaneous is a perception of decline in US
hegemonic power, and Japan-Korea stepping in to that
gap with Taiwanese, ASEAN and Australian blessing.
This was unmistakeably noted by Keiro Kitagami, a
special adviser on security issues to Prime Minister
Yoshihiko Noda : “During the cold war, all Japan had
to do was follow the U.S. ...With China, it’s different.
Japan has to take a stand on its own.”
Yoshihide Soeya, director of the Institute of East
Asian Studies at Keio University in Tokyo reinforced
this point: “We want to build our own coalition of the
willing in Asia to prevent China from just running over
Just how remarkable is the change in regional opinion
was shown on 10 December 2012. This is when
Philippines Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said
the Philippines would support Japanese rearmament
as a counterweight to Chinese provocation: "We are
looking for balancing factors in the region and Japan
could be a significant balancing factor."
As long ago as RIMPAC 1994 Japanese warships
‘exercised exclusively with the USN in coordination with
a multinational activity’ and in 2009 the Japanese Navy
conducted joint military exercises with Australia. This
was the break-point, and there have been numerous
multinational exercises with ASEAN navies since. In
June 2012 the Japanese Navy held its first exercise
with the Indian Navy.
Japan is also building regional naval power. Japan
plans to provide the Philippine Coast Guard with
two refurbished Shiretoko class 970 ton cutters and
ten new-build Bizan class 180 ton patrol boats from
2013. The Japanese are in discussions with Vietnam
over a similar package. Incidentally the expansion of
Philippines capability continues - a second Hamilton
class cutter was acquired in 2012.
Much more significantly, Philippine Defense
Secretary Voltaire Gazmin announced in 2012
that negotiations with the Italian government were
underway for the purchase of two Maestrale class Anti-
Submarine frigates in a deal estimated at 11.7 billion
Philippine pesos (US $280). If the deal proceeds the
first ship may be selected and commence refit in 2013.
Japan’s Ministry of Defence plans to double its
military aid program in 2012 to help Indonesia and
Vietnam. Vietnam is considering purchase of a second
pair of the well-regarded Gepard class frigates and in
August 2012 Russia's Admiralteiskie Verfi shipyard
launched the first of her six Kilo class submarines.
Vietnam's Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Zung announced
the signing of a contract worth nearly US $2 billion
for the six boats in December 2009. All are due to
be delivered by 2016 and Vietnam is negotiating with
India and Japan for training assistance.
China is increasingly vulnerable to maritime trade
pressures. For the first time in its history China
is dependent on imported food and fuel and this
dependency is increasing. Chinese policy makers have
little experience in the maritime arena: China has never
been a maritime power. Japan, however, has unique
experience in this regard including the concluding
1944-45 period of the Second World War when the
country was completely blockaded.
The increasingly serious policy failures of the
Obama Administration are causing concern. With
the US government unwilling to cut expenditure and
borrowing 40% of that unsustainable expenditure, their
military budget is coming under increasing pressure
so that welfare entitlements can be sustained. The
consequences of this unprecedented US fiscal
mismanagement for international stability are grave.
Analysis shows that if it continues – as it now will until
at least 2017 – employed Americans with stock market
investments and savings will be impoverished within a
decade at worst. Their middle class already pays 50%
of earnings in income, payroll, state, property, and
consumption taxes. The other option is to run down the
debt via inflation, which would destroy the US middle
class. In neither case can the USA sustain current
military spending levels. The US financial situation is
that they went ‘over the fiscal cliff’ of excessive deficit
spending four years ago and are in fiscal free-fall. The
implications for international security are obvious.
The Obama administration’s policy ineptitude is
knocking the foundations from under the longest
period of international calm since 1866. Prosperity
cannot be based on debt or international security
on growing instability. There is a real danger of a
potentially catastrophic chain of events occurring.
Unfortunately, both Washington and Canberra are
pretending that warning signs are actually indications
of stability. Such poor policy thinking is not present in
Tokyo, Manila or Hanoi as they just cannot afford it.
JAPAN AND RAPID CHANGE
What neither Washington nor Canberra appears
to understand is how fast Japan can change when
it must. Japan has implemented rapid, orderly and
radical change from the Meiji period. Through strict
self-discipline and efficient utilisation of their linked
bureaucratic and industrial systems, the Japanese
have demonstrated an ability to implement swift
transformation of Japan's grand strategy in the face
of national crises. This process is again commencing.
The economic and military power in Japanese
possession can support even a radical change of
Peoples Liberation Army (Navy) sailors
Credit: USN / Ben Rush
25/01/13 7:33 PM
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