THE DRAGON WANTS IT ALL
We reported about a week ago that Japan had requested to join a naval exercise with the United States and India that had been previously planned. (Click here for previous post ). We've also noted that in the recent past Japan's Maritime Self Defense Force had exercised with the Indian Navy. We suggested in our previous article reporting Japan's request for participation that we though the U.S. which always welcomes interaction with the JMSDF should let the decision be India's. It appears that all are in agreement though we don't know any of the behind the scenes details and all three nations will be exercising together. The Dragon is having hissy fits about this. Here is the reason.
While Japan's JMSDF avoids the title of Navy because of Japanese constitutional limits on their military and because due to those limits they lack certain clearly attack type ships such as air craft carriers, it is none less larger than the present British Navy. It is also very astute at inter-operating with the American Navy with whom it exercises on a regular basis and has special access to. India is a rising Navy among the top four or five in the world and while officially non aligned we reported not long ago that in a regional exercise with U.S. and Australian forces the Indian Navy's ability to inter-operate with U.S. and Australian Forces was rated as superior to some of the NATO nations which exercise with U.S. forces much more regularly. China is used to Japan exercising with the U.S. that has been going on since the 1950s but fears greater inter-operability between Japan and India, and India and the U.S.. Japan's constitution currently limits it's ability to enter into collective security arrangements. The U.S. is obligated to come to Japan's defense under the peace treaty that officially end the state of war between Japan and the U.S. but Japan has no reciprocal obligations.
The current state of affairs in Japan's defense posture is based on regional fears of a resurgent Japan after WWII. Japan was then a struggling defeated nation trying to put its economy and society back together under a new model. The new model has been out for decades Japan has become a reliable and law abiding democracy and a vibrant economy recent stock market and other troubles not with standing. The U.S. military umbrella under which Japan sheltered for decades is shrinking. China is becoming a naval aggressor. Peoples of the region have been looking to Japan to shoulder more of the collective defense and the JMSDy has responded by participating in out of area anti piracy patrols as has the Chinese Navy (PLAN) and exercising with some non U.S. regional naval forces. But Japan's present constitution prevents it from entering fully into regional security arrangements because it is prevented from coming to a partner's aid. Japanese armed forces can only respond to an attack on Japan's soverignity.
Recently the Philippines, in WW II brutally occupied by the Japanese , and presently being bullied by China who claims islands within the recognized Philippine Exclusive Economic zone (EEZ) and even into her territorial sea has given Japan a vote of confidence proclaiming no objection to Japanese a military build up and accepting patrol boats and other naval aid from Japan. But again Japan is limited to foreign aid of the supply type where the beneficiary country owns and operates the equipment. Japan is constitutionally prohibited from coming to any one's direct aid with military force. Popular opinion in Japan is very much against re-militarization but is also against surrendering any territory on demand of China. There may be no need to own air craft carriers or other offensive weapons, but clearly Japan's constitution needs an update to allow it to be a full participant in regional collective security arrangements.
The Chinese resent the up coming exercise because it underscores the ability of Japan and India to inter operate not only with the U.S., the power with the least interest in the disputed islands but also with other powers with real interests and India another target on China's aggressive radar. The exercise underscores India's phenomenal inter-operability with Western and Western allied powers. While India remains non aligned the exercise underscores the respect and even affection that India enjoys with most of the nations on earth and its quick and ready ability to work in an effective military manner with any nation willing to come to its aid in event of an attack. The Middle Kingdom which seeks to draw all nations to itself as vassals can't compete with democratic, non aggressive (but assertive) India for capturing global admiration. China knows that India will have friends should they be really needed, advance formal alliances or not. The world except for the open air insane asylum that is North Korea really doesn't care who rules China. Confucian society as well as communism are failed societal models, the Chinese economic boom not with standing, no body wants to live under either set of rules and certainly not a fusion of the two authoritarian philosophies.
The Japanese constitution and residual distrust of Japanese power by regional nations are the main obstruction to a strong regional collaborative regional security arrangement. This exercise is a good thing, but a real start must be made on the regional attitude towards Japan. It is time for Japan to apologize for its behavior in WWII. Few of that generation are alive, and the present generations certainly bear no blame, but until an admission of wrong doing is made neighbors fear that the same aggressive imperial attitudes may be latent in the Japanese electorate. That electorate must stand up and demonstrate disapproval of former national brutal imperialism. If you go far enough back in history every nation has a skeleton or two in the closet, but WWII still has a few living participants in the region and at least one whole generation brought up on first hand stories of the event from actual survivors. Japan's present generation needs to demonstrate that while they honor their ancestors they don't share certain attitudes that worry their neighbors. As long as the nations opposite China on the shores of the China Seas are separated by their own minor elements of distrust, the Dragon is free to roam. Japan needs to reassure every one the Philippines and Malaysia need to settle their own island disputes even if it is only to agree to joint development and future binding arbitration. Together, the Dragon can be contained until it becomes sufficiently domesticated to join the party. Divided, the Dragon will eventually shoot someone who can shoot back and all hell will break out.
There is a related article in the KYODO NEWS