Thu, Nov 30, 2017 - Page 8 News List

Abe’s win and Japan’s rearmament

By Arthur Waldron

This fact transforms the Asian strategic situation. No longer will China be able to intimidate without fearing retaliation. The Hague decision will be proclaimed as justification and who can gainsay the legitimacy of that?

Japan will become an Asian alliance focus in the emerging alliance — “The Quad” of Australia, the US, India and Japan — hammered out, significantly, on the sidelines of this year’s ASEAN conference in Manila, so far China’s chief target. Also, it will become a non-US source of advanced weaponry.

This last point — weapons supply — is particularly significant with respect to Taiwan. US policy has always been to keep Taiwan weak enough that China can imagine conquest, yet fulfill the letter of the Taiwan Relations Act, which requires it to supply defensive armament by selling mostly obsolete or unwanted systems at great profit to its defense contractors.

The loss of Taiwan, while it would be a crime against humanity, would not affect US security.

However, it would mortally threaten Japan, whose main islands are 1,300km away, while its closest small island, Yonaguni, is less than 115km from the east coast of Taiwan.

Japan and Taiwan are part of the same mostly submerged ocean mountain range, so we might expect Japan and Taiwan to cooperate in whatever ways are necessary to keep China at bay.

If the US continues to seek to please China even as it supplies Taiwan with inadequate equipment, it might expect Japanese systems to fill the gap — submarines, naval vessels, state-of-the-art aircraft — not to mention close intelligence cooperation. Taiwan is often thought of as a US issue. Look at the map, though. It is a Japanese issue.

Finally, we must speak of diplomacy. Japan is widely distrusted, although this is perhaps a myth. Even South Korea, which was tortured brutally by Japan during the period it was a colony (1910 to 1945), maintains a high level of day-to-day security interaction with Tokyo.

Japan’s diplomatic prowess is often underestimated, in part because Japan conceals it, but — particularly if aided by the US and other “Quad” powers — it will show great effectiveness. “The Quad,” which China never imagined, but was instrumental in creating as a counterbalance to its aggression, is more than a sufficient counterweight.

Note that China has created this situation for itself. It has no real allies: Does anyone expect Russia or Pakistan to go to war on its behalf? Rather, by making such vast territorial claims from India to Japan (with the Russian Primorsky Krai, which controls the Pacific coast of Eurasia), it has alienated, effectively, all its neighbors — here I include unstable Pakistan and opportunistic Russia — creating what political scientists would call a “countervailing coalition.”

The US’ greatest 19th-century general, Winfield Scott, might have called it “an anaconda” that China has created, but in the toils of which it now finds itself. This entanglement will render impossible China’s miscalculated policies.

Note too that without China’s aid or at least acquiescence, North Korea would not be able to command the attention or elicit the fear that it does now. It is a dependent variable in this larger change, which will undermine and weaken it. South Korea is furthermore high on the list of nuclear-capable states.

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