Thu, Nov 30, 2017 - Page 8 News List

Abe’s win and Japan’s rearmament

By Arthur Waldron

The drastic changes that China started unilaterally, assuming Japan would dither, in fact focused that nation’s attention.

With Abe’s victory, we might expect Japan to become normal, which is to say possess a self-sufficient military capability including, if so pressed, nuclear weapons that will deter China and freeze its current policy.

A democracy, Japan can move only with the support of its people. China’s threats to its territory, as well as the firing of two North Korean ballistic missiles over the islands, contributed to Abe’s victory. Now, we can expect a carefully calibrated Japanese response that will match China at every stage.

What does Japan have now? Its self-defense force numbers at about 250,000. At present, it lacks any but defensive armaments. Even so, its advanced technological capabilities mean that it can develop any weapon it needs, as good as or better than the US systems on which it now largely relies. Japan does not steal technologies. It already has technologies.

The jewel in its crown is its small (19) submarine force. The Soryu-class is a conventional submarine so stealthy that the highly skilled Japanese anti-submarine forces can find only 5 percent of them when under way. They regularly sink US carrier escorts (using lasers) in war games.

More importantly, as retired Chinese general Liu Yazhou (劉亞洲), an adamant Japanophobe, has warned, in case of naval conflict today, the Japanese submarines could sink the entire Chinese East Sea fleet in about four hours. (Liu is also an outspoken advocate of democracy).

As the Japanese ambassador said to this author: “We are a shadow nuclear power.”

In other words, it might take them a week to create an arsenal.

Otherwise, Japan has a slightly obsolescent air force to which US F-35s are being added. More importantly, it has a prototype sixth-generation stealth fighter, the X-2 Shinshin.

Cynics say it is building this to force US prices down. That might have been correct in the past, but today it is building it so as to be self-sufficient in aircraft. I believe this will be a superb jet: Remember, not until 1943 did the US field a fighter that could down the Japanese Zero.

Japan has also been launching “information gathering satellites” since 2003. The most recent, launched earlier this year, is thought to have resolving power far superior to any other nation’s. Japan has enlarged its intelligence service. Particularly in cooperation with Taiwan, Japan will achieve intelligence dominance in the region.

What is missing?

Japan only has very short-range missiles. However, now it has undertaken a program to build a maneuverable missile having sufficient range and payload to pose a severe problem to any adversary, and a 1,609km-range missile nicknamed the “Japanese Tomahawk” about which we know very little.

Japanese speak of these as counterstrike missiles: in other words, to be used only after being attacked. However, nothing prevents their pre-emptive use.

Likewise, they are intended to be conventional. However, nothing prevents Japanese from unscrewing a conventional warhead and replacing it with a nuclear weapon.

In other words, Japan is on the threshold of becoming a regional great power, not capable of attacking or invading its adversaries, but of paralyzing them by means of its advanced military capabilities.

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