Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Marines, the Dugongs and the Japan "defense-only" posture!

Military industrial complex chances of collision?

Time for chumming around on the "defense-only posture theme"!

Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama on maintaining US military facilities in Japan: "Occasional drills by U.S. forces in peacetime and deploying American troops only in emergencies." (March 30, 2010 Kyodo)

What is to happen to the American armed forces stationed in Japan since WW2? Is a Subic Bay closure (former largest overseas military installation of the United States Armed Forces) similar scenario expected from Japan Hatoyama new administration and coalition partners? Can Japan afford such posture for the benefit of its electorate and for... the Dugongs?

In an interesting development yesterday 2010 March 29th, "Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada told U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates that Japan is aiming to reach a conclusion on the issue of relocating the U.S. Marine Corps' Futemma Air Station in Okinawa Prefecture by the end of May. Gates, for his part, told Okada during their meeting near Washington that the U.S. government hopes to settle the issue at an early date as the U.S. Marines in Okinawa play an important role in the bilateral alliance."

Japan hosts over 40.000 U.S. military personnel, frequent source of irritation for communities near military bases sampled on the Japanese archipelago, with many complaints of crime, noise and pollution Japanese press often say. Democratic Party leader Ichiro Ozawa drew criticism when he said repeatedly that most of the US troops were not needed. But the party's election manifesto made no mention of a deep cut in troop levels, instead offering to propose amendments to the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) under which U.S. troops operate in Japan and to rethink a planned redeployment of U.S. troops. This is where Japan and US stand right now. Frictions and mistrust highlighted on the radar screen of bilateral relations?

It all started with this news in December 2009 : "Japan's centre-left government, which took power three months ago, will suspend new funds for its joint missile defence system with the United States in 2010. The cabinet approved defence spending guidelines for the 2010/11 financial year, including a delay in the deployment of new Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) surface-to-air interceptors until after April 2011. Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama's government also postponed a major review of defence policy guidelines by a year to "thoroughly review the important issue of national defence after the historic change of government".

Today, major trouble facing the Japanese administration is the issue of Futenma, Okinawa, Japan, with the Futenma Marine Corps Air Station.

Where? What? Futenma?

Global Security, quotes: "Located in the midst of Futenma city, Futenma Air Base is said to symbolize Okinawa's base-related issues such as the dangers of aircraft noise pollution and crashes. The US Marine Corps Futenma Air Station occupies a fourth of the total area of Ginowan City, and it is right in the center of the city. Roads, waterworks and sewerage systems have to make a detour to avoid the air station. It is a major obstacle to improving the city's infrastructure. In addition, to avoid inconvenience to US aircraft approaching to the air station, the height of buildings is restricted near the base, and thus redevelopment, which Ginowan City wants to undertake, cannot be carried out. The base has many support facilities including hangars, communication facilities, maintenance/repair facilities, parts warehouses, offices, a fire station, PX, clubs, bars, health clinics, and MWR facilities. It is well equipped with such facilities as hangars, a communication facility, maintenance and repair facilities, storage facilities, a fire station, and leisure/recreational facilities for US personnel. End of quotes." http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/facility/futenma.htm

For months, the inner debate here is: Are the Marines useful to Japan defense within the Japan US bilateral Military Alliance or is it simple policy justification of the Eisenhower M.I.C. iron triangle disguised as threats and strategies? http://www.archive.org/details/dde_1961_0117

As read on the NBR forum on Japan US relations http://nbrforums.nbr.org/ Quotes: "... a major objective for the Marines is to get get facilities adequate for the stationing on Okinawa of Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft... [There is ] an Okinawan reluctance to have the aircraft introduced to their crowded island. Osprey development has cost $27 billion to date according to Wikipedia, and has cost nineteen lives. It has been scheduled to cost an additional $27 billion (Ospreys cost $80 million each for an aircraft that carries 24 Marines). The aircraft has received very poor reports by the General Accountability Office (only 6% average availability in Iraq). Administrations have been trying for years to eliminate the Osprey program, and it has been "zeroed out" of the president's budget for next fiscal year. However, the power of the Marine Corps lobby has been such that Congress has overruled the president on numerous occasions in the past, and it is premature to call the program dead... Certainly the "contingency" requirements are inflated, for they assume American participation in a land war in Asia, presumably in Korea... [because] a war in Korea would be over before American ground troops could do anything useful..." End of quotes. Not always easy for the Osprey to take off as shown here:

If China is one of main threats for the United States, then "how effectively and peacefully China would disarm this hedging strategy with careful statesmanship and a vigorous trade policy?" Already a large number of Southeast Asian countries, including the Philippines and Indonesia, succumbed early to China's version of checkbook diplomacy?" writes John Feffer in Asia Times http://atimes.com/atimes/Japan/LC06Dh01.html . I'd add that China is the main funding and political "ally" of several South East Asian nations, Cambodia, Vietnam, Myanmar, as I observed these last months in the region. Not really the End of the Empires as some of my fellow French watchers inaccurately believe.

For Japan, the issue is to review the relation Japan USA and this is the cause of a major major political confrontation between Tokyo and Washington. Question is: Can both harmonize their views taking into account the evolution of the East Asian region? Economical, strategical, societal?

On this, the study of a private advisory panel of experts working for Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama.

Quotes: "... [the Hatoyama panel] has started discussions on a new defense program outline, which will serve as the basic guidelines for the nation's defense policy. The coming defense program outline will be the fourth, following those adopted in 1976, 1995 and 2004. On 2009 Aug. 4, a predecessor panel under then Prime Minister Taro Aso proposed, among other things, to change the interpretation of Article 9 so that Japan can shoot down North Korean missiles launched at the United States and that the Maritime Self-Defense Force can directly protect U.S. naval ships during a contingency and to modify the principle of not allowing export of weapons.

The current administration shelved the panel's proposals. The new Hatoyama panel will have to assess Japan's security environment, including China's rapid military buildup and North Korea's nuclear weapons programs. It will also have to discuss proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and measures to cope with terrorism, piracy and large-scale disasters.

The focus will be the defense posture of China, which is modernizing intermediate-range ballistic missiles, expanding its naval power, including enlargement of its submarine fleet, and improving cyber and space attack capabilities. The panel is also likely to discuss making flexible the principles governing the Self-Defense Forces' participation in the United Nations peacekeeping operations.

The Hatoyama administration has not disclosed basic principles for its defense policy. As 50 years have passed since the signing of the current security treaty with the U.S., one of the panel's tasks should be to redefine the roles of the Japan-U.S. alliance and discuss how it should function.

But in doing so, the panel should pay due respect to the traditional principles such as the defense-only posture, the non-nuclear principle, the prohibition of weapons exports and civilian control of the SDF, which have derived from the spirit of the war-renouncing Constitution. The panel should work out a basic direction for attaining restrained but effective defense capabilities under these principles. End of quotes, Japan Times Editorial March 13 2010.

NB1 The Dugong, officially designated as a "natural monument of Okinawa", is a large marine mammal which, together with the manatees, is one of four living species of the order Sirenia. Bilingual, by Greenpeace http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z_8UOiyHVkI

NB2 One of major element of misunderstanding for many westerners and watchers of Japan is to have access to what is written in Japanese press. Few read Japanese. "Unfortunately and seen as a mistaken decision by scholars, the US embassy in Japan recent refusal to distribute Japanese newspapers press review translations (except to foreign embassies) will, writes in substance Professor and critic Gregory Clark, no doubt make life difficult for some scholars to know where Japan is heading."

NB3 "Gray area between peacetime and contingencies"

The think tank of the Defense Ministry of Japan expressed skepticism about an idea of maintaining the Japan-U.S. security alliance without U.S. forces being permanently stationed in Japan, saying in its annual report set for release Tuesday March 30 that the role of the U.S. military in a ‘‘gray area’’ between peacetime and contingencies has become vital. The 2010 East Asian Strategic Review by the National Institute for Defense Studies stresses the significance of U.S. troops being permanently forward-deployed in Japan, saying their presence is not only required for possible armed conflicts but also for operations against terrorism and piracy, disaster relief and daily surveillance. Such a view conflicts with the concept held by Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama of maintaining military facilities in Japan that would accommodate occasional drills by U.S. forces in peacetime and deploying American troops only in emergencies. (Kyodo news March 30, 2010)

China became a major player in the world of conventional and nuclear arms sales

Sources: Wire news, Reporter's notes, Youtube, MoD, DoD, Mofa, Archive.org, Global Security, NBR.

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