New role for Ja­pan

A ‘po­lice force’ be­comes the world’s fourth-most pow­er­ful mil­i­tary

The Washington Times Daily - - EDITORIAL -

Ja­pan emerged from World War II as a crushed sur­vivor of its own am­bi­tion and cru­elty, de­spised by the Asia it de­scribed as a “part­ner” in the Greater East Asia Co-Pros­per­ity Sphere. Asia was a very ju­nior “part­ner” in­deed.

The Japanese mil­i­tary that fought World War II is re­mem­bered for the rape and pil­lage not only of Nank­ing but in the sack­ing of Manila, “the Pearl of the Ori­ent” that Dou­glas MacArthur had de­clared an open city and evac­u­ated his army to save it. Japanese troops lev­eled it to a smok­ing ruin.

When the war was over, the new Ja­pan, un­der the tute­lage of MacArthur, de­clared never again, and adopted a con­sti­tu­tion, still in force, that ab­jures all mil­i­tary force. But that’s only part of the story. Tokyo, en­cour­aged and fur­ther tu­tored by the United States, now com­mands one of the most pow­er­ful mil­i­tary es­tab­lish­ments in the world. Its weapons re­search de­vel­op­ment sets the pace in some ar­eas.

The Ja­pan Self-De­fense Forces, es­tab­lished in 1954, ranks as the world’s fourth most-pow­er­ful mil­i­tary in con­ven­tional ca­pa­bil­i­ties, with the eighth­largest mil­i­tary bud­get. In re­cent years Ja­pan has par­tic­i­pated in United Na­tions peace­keep­ing op­er­a­tions, and its highly trained and equipped am­phibi­ous rapid de­ploy­ment brigade — which ex­pects to train 3,000 men by the end of next month — has just com­pleted a joint ex­er­cise with U.S. forces.

Ris­ing Cold War ten­sions in Europe and Asia, cou­pled with left­ist-in­spired strikes and demon­stra­tions in Ja­pan, prompted con­ser­va­tive lead­ers to question the uni­lat­eral re­nun­ci­a­tion of all mil­i­tary ca­pa­bil­i­ties in the sur­ren­der treaty with the United States and the Al­lies. When many Amer­i­can oc­cu­pa­tion troops were moved to Korean War duty, Ja­pan de­vel­oped a close mu­tual de­fense re­la­tion­ship with the United States.

En­cour­aged by the Amer­i­cans, the Japanese govern­ment in 1950 au­tho­rized the es­tab­lish­ment of a Na­tional Po­lice Re­serve, con­sist­ing of 75,000 men equipped with light in­fantry weapons. In 1952, Coastal Safety Force, the wa­ter­borne coun­ter­part of the po­lice re­serve, was or­ga­nized and in 2006 the Japanese mil­i­tary es­tab­lish­ment be­came the full-fledged cabi­net-level Min­istry of De­fense.

A year later Japanese mil­i­tary op­er­a­tions were re­vised from “miscellaneous reg­u­la­tions” to “ba­sic du­ties,” fi­nally rec­og­niz­ing that the na­tion’s mil­i­tary was no longer re­stricted solely to de­fense. Japanese ships are now dis­patched world­wide, for ex­am­ple, to deal with pi­rates who have im­per­iled com­mer­cial ship­ping. Ja­pan es­tab­lished its first post­war over­seas base at Dji­bouti, in So­ma­lia, in 2010.

Ja­pan and the United States con­ducted their largest mil­i­tary ex­er­cise, called Keen Sword, last year, with 47,000 Amer­i­can sea­men, Marines and air­men joined by 47,000 Japanese. A naval sup­ply ship and frigate of the Royal Cana­dian Navy also par­tic­i­pated in sim­u­la­tions of air com­bat, bal­lis­tic mis­sile de­fense and am­phibi­ous land­ings.

In 2004, at the be­hest of the United States, Ja­pan de­ployed troops to Iraq in the U.S.-led re­con­struc­tion of Iraq. This was the first time since the end of World War II that Ja­pan had sent troops abroad, ex­cept for a few mi­nor U.N. peace­keep­ing de­ploy­ments.

Last De­cem­ber the govern­ment adopted a bud­get for fis­cal 2019 that in­cludes 100 tril­lion yen, or $900 bil­lion, for the mil­i­tary. There is no se­cret about what mo­ti­vates Japanese pol­icy to turn its back on the post­war pro­fes­sions of neu­tral­ity and to re­ject the idea of any mil­i­tary es­tab­lish­ment. It’s the grow­ing per­ceived threat from Com­mu­nist China.

In ad­di­tion to con­ven­tional weaponry, the de­fense bud­get for fis­cal 2018 in­cluded funds to pur­chase mid- to long-range air-launched cruise mis­siles. De­fense Min­is­ter It­sunori On­odera said they would be used ex­clu­sively for de­fense as “stand-off mis­siles that can be fired be­yond the range of en­emy threats.” But the bud­get al­lo­cated another $20 mil­lion for the pur­chase of Joint Strike Mis­siles for its Amer­i­can­made F-35A stealth fight­ers and $270,000 for re­search on mod­i­fy­ing ex­ist­ing Japanese Mit­subishi F-15J fight­ers to carry long-range an­ti­ship mis­siles and ex­tended-range air-to-sur­face stand­off mis­siles.

The Min­istry of De­fense is de­vel­op­ing su­per­sonic glide bombs to strengthen the de­fense of Ja­pan’s re­mote is­lands, in­clud­ing the Senkaku Is­lands be­tween Ja­pan and Korea. The anti-sur­face strike ca­pa­bil­ity will as­sist in am­phibi­ous land­ing and re­cap­ture op­er­a­tions on re­mote is­lands. Ja­pan’s De­fense Min­istry has also al­lo­cated $57 mil­lion for re­search and de­vel­op­ment of a hy­per­sonic mis­sile which could travel five times the speed of sound, Mach 5, or faster. A scram­jet en­gine pro­to­type, jet-fuel tech­nol­ogy and heat-re­sis­tant ma­te­ri­als will be built by 2025.

Japanese pub­lic opin­ion about all this is sharply di­vided. The Japanese people rel­ish their new rep­u­ta­tion as peace-lov­ing folk who wouldn’t harm a fly — or dis­patch a fly­ing mis­sile. But it’s a new world out there, as well as a new Ja­pan.

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