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Japan-China, potential future flash point?

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by tulianr, Sep 22, 2012.

  1. tulianr

    tulianr Don Quixote de la Monkey

    With China’s rise, Japan shifts to the right

    The most obvious sign of Japan’s new security concerns came two years ago, under then-Prime Minister Naoto Kan, when the country overhauled its defense strategy, turning its attention to China’s expanding naval threat and promising greater surveillance of the southwestern island chain that marks a tense maritime border between the neighbors.

    The strategy pinpointed Beijing as a chief security concern, and tensions have only escalated this summer as the countries have sparred over a collection of remote, uninhabitable islands and the waters around them.

    Although the disputes over these islands go back centuries, experts say that Japan is taking unprecedented steps to boldly state its claims and monitor its waters, with heavy investments in helicopters and airplanes that can transport SDF members to a maritime crisis.

    Additionally, Japan by 2015 plans to deploy troops on southwestern Yonaguni Island, in the East China Sea. A defense ministry spokesman said that this will be the first time Japan will station ground troops anywhere in the “first island chain” that runs from Okinawa to Taiwan and that also includes the Senkaku Islands, owned by Japan but claimed also by China and Taiwan.

    “It has now become the highest priority . . . to figure out how to reinforce the defense of Japan’s southwestern region along this first island chain,” Defense Minister Satoshi Morimoto said in a recent interview.
    A legacy of its retreat from militancy after World War II, Japan’s constitution, with the two-paragraph Article 9, renounces war and promises to never maintain land, sea and air forces. Article 9 has never been changed, but its interpretation has been loosened, most clearly in 1954, when Japan established the SDF for the purpose of protecting its own land.

    Still, the SDF, as a defense-only unit, faces profound restrictions. It has no long-range missiles or aircraft carriers. Though it takes part in peacekeeping missions overseas, it can’t join in combat to defend an ally.

    But there’s a growing push to change this restriction on “collective self-defense,” as it’s known. Noda favors a change, as does Toru Hashimoto, the country’s most popular politician, who recently launched a new national party. Meantime, the Liberal Democratic Party, likely to assume power after Noda, has taken an even bolder step, laying out a re-drafted constitution that overhauls Article 9, provides the right to collective self-defense and “make Japan a truly sovereign state.”
    “The pacifist sentiment is still strong enough to impact Japanese government policy,” Nishihara said. “So the government has to be careful. It has to move very slowly.”

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