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Japan’s Return to its Militaristic Roots ... With American Help

JodyRoundhouseFeb 1, 2019, 5:17:53 AM

Japan’s Return to its Militaristic Roots

By @JodyRoundhouse

(2019 Update: As one can see, this article is dated. Many things have occurred since that have continued Japan's rise as an Asian military power working in tandem with the United States to counter China's military rise in Asia)

The United States is leading the charge in preparing Japan’s military for a potential war with China.

Although Japan’s military is technically a “pacifist” defense force since its devastating World War II misadventures, many in Tokyo and Washington are eyeing a rising China with suspicion, especially its ominously rapid military buildup.

Japan’s ability to conduct war is being invigorated and strengthened under the urging and guidance of American policymakers in Washington. Working in tandem with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government, the two countries seek to strengthen military ties and increase force projection and readiness in a way never before seen in the U.S.-Japan alliance structure. This is all part of President Obama’s strategic “pivot” to Asia.

Japan’s post-WWII pacifist constitution only allows it a “defense” force, capable of defending the home islands from attack. Not since the end of WWII has Japan been allowed an offensive military capability. This idea of redefining the constitution is controversial in Japan, but is gaining traction as many come to accept, albeit nervously, the growing military strength of China.

But it’s a two-way street.

Still badly shaken by Japan’s WWII atrocities and conquests on Asia’s mainland, this new re-militarism policy is being met with uneasiness by some of Japan’s neighbors. Some fear that re-instilling a sense of militaristic nationalism (with undertones reminiscent of Bushido Code) marks a dangerous turning point in an increasingly volatile situation.

The Senkaku Islands or, as China calls them, the Diaoyu, are a cluster of uninhabited islands in the East China Sea. Because they are believed to have large energy reserves beneath the ocean just off their coasts, nearby nations are trying to stake claims. Foremost among them is Japan and China, the region’s two most powerful countries.

Japan controlled the islands from 1895 to the end of WWII, when they were surrendered to the United States. Japan regained ownership of the islands in the early 1970s, but China and Taiwan both claim historic rights to them. The rift between Japan and China over ownership of the islands is becoming a global flashpoint for a sudden, fast-moving war.

China continues to rapidly modernize its military, modeling it after the smaller, leaner, more technologically advanced and much more professional fighting force of the United States. It’s fine-tuning its military doctrine, and has surely developed contingency plans for seizing the islands by force if needed.

China’s sudden unilateral decision at the end of last year to announce its “Air Defense Navigation Zone” over the islands triggered an ominous response from Washington: The immediate overflight of two B-52 heavy bombers over the zone without prior authorization was met with silence from Beijing.

On paper, the air defense zone requires the pilots of any planes – military or civilian – to announce their intention to travel through that airspace ahead of time.

Since then there have been numerous unannounced military flights from the U.S., Japan and even South Korea through China’s self-appointed air defense zone – a blatant challenge that has cost China international prestige.

The U.S., under treaty obligations to defend Japan, its vital strategic partner in Asia, has until recently tried its best to stay neutral. But these pushes by Washington to create an offensive capability for Japan’s hitherto defensive-only military have raised tensions even higher in the region, still scarred and suspicious from Japan’s WWII-era mayhem.

Last year Japanese troops conducted amphibious assaults on a stretch of beach on the southern coast of California as part of joint exercises with U.S. Marines.

Known as Operation Dawn Blitz 2013, these training exercises aimed to strengthen Japan’s ability to invade an enemy territory by sea. Such a scenario bears stark similarities to what would likely happen if the Chinese took the islands by force. And just this past week President Obama affirmed that the U.S. will fight for Japan if war erupts over the disputed islands, an issue that had before been a gray area.

Revamping Japan’s already technologically advanced military should be a top foreign policy priority of the United States as it continues its “pivot” to Asia.

The key to success in this venture lies in the ability of the U.S. to keep Japan reined in from its past expansionist tendencies, while simultaneously trying to make its military a formidable fighting force in the event of war with China.

The ancient adage still rings true: “If you want peace, prepare for war.”

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(2019 Update: As one can see, this article is dated. Many things have occurred since that have continued Japan's rise as an Asian military power working in tandem with the United States to counter China's military rise in Asia)