Japan from the inside out

“…trusting in the justice and faith of the peace-loving peoples of the world”

Posted by ampontan on Sunday, August 15, 2010

China’s military expansion is a threat. Politicians desirous of peace should say what should be said.
– Haraguchi Kazuhiro, Minister of Internal Affairs and Communications

HERE’S a sentence I suspect few of us thought we’d ever read:

“Japan is building its first military base overseas since the end of the Second World War.”

But it’s true. And they’ve got an excellent reason, too:

Japan is spending $40 million to build a base in Djibouti (on the northern border of Somalia), for its military personnel supporting the anti-piracy patrol. Most Japanese military personnel in the area are at sea, in warships. But now they have a place ashore to for supplies (sic) and maintenance facilities. Japan also has maritime patrol aircraft in Djibouti. All this is to help protect Japanese maritime trade, which is considerable. About ten percent of the merchant shipping passing through local waters is carrying Japanese goods (either exports, or raw materials imports.)

Not only did few of us expect to read it, it’s likely that fewer still thought they’d read it absent any international hand wringing. Shouldn’t this have been fodder enough for the other nations of Northeast Asia, the commentariat class, and the academic foreign policy wanks to gum over for months while warning of resurgent Japanese militarism? Every time a member of the Japanese Cabinet drives within a block of the Yasukuni shrine, the Chinese and the South Koreans crank up the propaganda sirens, yet they haven’t objected to the MSDF base at all.

There’s an excellent reason for the absence of Chinese objections:

In the Gulf of Aden off Somalia in East Africa, about 12,000 kilometers away from Japan, Captain Takanobu Minami, commander in charge of antipiracy measures for the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force (MSDF) met Senior Colonel Zhang Wendan, deputy chief of staff of China’s South Sea Fleet, aboard the Chinese missile destroyer Guangzhou on April 28….According to Minami, the MSDF officials were led into a meeting room aboard the ship, where a small Japanese national flag and a Chinese counterpart of the same-size adorned the table.

It wasn’t a courtesy call:

The Japanese and Chinese officials talked about their escort activities in the region and exchanged information on pirates for about an hour over coffee, including what military formation the escort ships should adopt and what measures can be taken to protect vessels that are not capable of traveling fast. In exchange, Zhang and other Chinese officers came aboard the MSDF escort ship Onami on May 23 to discuss further about their missions.

And it wasn’t a Japanese idea, either:

Both meetings were held at the request of the Chinese Navy, which contacted the MSDF through international radio equipped for antipiracy information.

Contrast that with events on the other side of Asia. Coinciding with the hands across the Persian Gulf approach was the growing tension between the two countries in the East China Sea:

Friction occurred in April between Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force and the Chinese Navy as a fleet of 10 Chinese naval vessels, including two submarines, three frigates and three destroyers, sailed south and then north between Okinawa and Miyako islands. On April 7-9, the fleet carried out training exercises, including helicopter flights, in the middle of the East China Sea. On April 8, before the fleet reached the line linking Okinawa and Miyako, a Chinese naval helicopter, at an altitude of 30 meters, flew within 90 meters of the 4,650-ton MSDF destroyer Suzunami. The MSDF said there was a danger of a collision because the top of Suzunami’s mast rises 40 meters above the sea.


On April 10, the Chinese naval fleet passed the line between Okinawa and Miyako islands while sailing south. On April 21, as it was returning north some 500 km off Okinawa Island, a Chinese helicopter twice circled the 3,100-ton MSDF destroyer Asayuki at a distance of a mere 90 meters. This time, Japan lodged a protest with the Chinese embassy in Tokyo on the same day. Before the incident, the Chinese naval fleet had conducted training exercises west of Okino Torishima Island, Japan’s southernmost island. On April 22, the Chinese naval fleet, returning north, was seen passing between Okinawa and Miyako islands.

The general policy of the Democratic Party-led government in Japan is to tilt away from the United States and toward China, but this nautical saber rattling was too much even for them:

Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada on Wednesday defended Japanese Self-Defense Forces’ monitoring of Chinese navy vessels that sailed near Japanese southern waters earlier this month in response to Chinese criticism of the move the day before…Tokyo has lodged a protest with Beijing over what it sees as “dangerous” approaches by Chinese ship-borne helicopters on April 8 and 21 toward Japanese destroyers, which were deployed for surveillance of the Chinese vessels.

That rubbed the Chinese fur in the wrong direction:

On Tuesday, Chinese Ambassador to Japan Cheng Yonghua criticized Japan for “following” the vessels “for quite a long time,” telling a press conference in Japanese, “I think such a thing would be a betrayal of mutual trust.”

What mutual trust would that be? No one trusts the Chinese, and the Chinese don’t care what anyone thinks.

Just the day before, the Chinese delivered a diplomatic message through analysts talking to a print media surrogate:

Tokyo should talk to Beijing about its proposed strategy to scour the seafloors near China’s Diaoyu Islands for rare metals, as any unilateral move on its part may likely “trigger a clash” between the Asian neighbors, analysts told China Daily on Monday…

The Chinese threaten military action over a maritime mineralogical expedition, but some people still think an unresurgent Japanese militarism is a matter for concern.

Under (a) new strategy (on securing undersea resources), Japan is keen to explore the seabed within its exclusive economic zone (EEZ), an area that extends 200 nautical miles (370 kilometers) offshore or to the half-way points to neighboring countries, according to Kyodo. The areas to be explored cover 340,000 square kilometers (136,000 square miles) of the East China Sea and the Pacific Ocean, it reported.

China claims indisputable sovereignty over the Diaoyu Islands and adjacent islets. Japan too regards the Diaoyu Islands as its own territory. The two countries also hold disputes on overlapping claims of their extended continental shelf in the East China Sea where both countries have oil-drilling platforms.

Isn’t the following sentence more than a bit reminiscent of Germany talking about Central Europe in the 1930s?

“As long as it does not breach any law, other countries should gradually get used to it,” Jin added. (The increased Chinese military presence)

It would have been easy to identify the source of the article without mentioning the name of the media outlet. The author called them the Diaoyu Islands rather than the Senkakus, even though they are in the possession of Japan. There is no mention that the Chinese have been siphoning off natural gas as if through a straw from a site four kilometers away from what the Japanese consider the boundary of their EEZ. The Japanese are developing oil and natural gas resources on their side of the line. This line, incidentally, is drawn midway between Okinawa and the Chinese coast, but the Chinese claim rights to all the maritime territory as far as the Okinawa Trough, some distance east of that line.

Need I mention that the Chinese refuse to take the dispute to the International Court of Justice? The Chinese are reasserting their traditional self-image as the hegemons of all they survey. Who is the International Court of Justice to cast judgment on them?

There’s even a Chinese Journal of International Law to convey their own legal determinations to the rest of the world–regardless of the incongruity of the juxtaposition of the “Chinese” with the idea of “international law”.

This dispute is the likely reason for the naval pas de deux:

Japan has told China it will appeal to an international maritime court if Beijing starts gas production in a disputed field in the East China Sea, a Japanese newspaper reported on Monday.

If anyone still takes Reuters seriously, the next sentence alone should disabuse them of that notion:

Tensions mostly stem from Japan’s wartime occupation of China.

Those lingering wartime tensions continued into May this year:

On May 3…another incident occurred…when a Chinese 1,690-ton marine survey ship stalked the Japan Coast Guard’s 3,000-ton survey ship Shoyo for three hours and 45 minutes in what Japan claims to be the Japanese side of the median line demarcating the exclusive economic zones of the two countries in the East China Sea — about 320 km northwest of Amami Oshima Island. Beijing rejected Japan’s protest, saying the waters where the incident occurred belong to China.

The Japanese impertinence and intransigence would be enough to exasperate anybody!

Still, the Chinese justification for their behavior was not without its comic aspects:

The Chinese Foreign Ministry’s spokeswoman, Jiang Yu, said the Chinese ship was acting within its rights. “It’s totally legitimate for a Chinese maritime survey vessel to undertake law-enforcement activities in these seas,” she was quoted as saying by China’s official media.

Considering the size of their military forces, ethnic ego, and nuclear weaponry, the Chinese can be surprisingly whiny:

Chinese Ambassador to Japan Cheng Yonghua expressed strong displeasure on Tuesday with the recent monitoring of a Chinese navy fleet by Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force in the sea off the Japanese coast. “While there are various neighboring countries around China, only the Japanese Self-Defense Force vessels hounded (the Chinese ships) from the beginning,” the ambassador said at a lecture hosted by Kyodo News in Tokyo.

You’ll never guess what diplomatic card they tried to play. Well, maybe you can:

At Tuesday’s lecture, Cheng alluded to the presence of anti-Japanese sentiment among Chinese people given Japan’s wartime aggression against China, asking Japan to imagine how Chinese nationals would feel if only the SDF was monitoring a Chinese fleet.

It might be more appropriate to imagine how Japanese nationals would feel now that the Chinese were exhibiting the behavior of a latter-day moustachioed paperhanger promising that the Sudetenland would be his last territorial claim.

There are even echoes of the Cold War:

Against a background of increased friction between Japanese and Chinese ships due to the Chinese Navy’s expanded activities in international waters near Japan, Japan’s Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada and his Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi agreed in a May 15 meeting in South Korea on the need to establish a hotline mechanism to avert problems at sea. A similar agreement was made three years ago, but little became of it.

Did little become of it because no one was at home whenever the Japanese called?

This Chinese explanation should cover all the contingencies:

“In order to defend China’s territory and sovereignty, and secure its maritime rights and interests, the navy decided to set its defense range as the Yellow Sea, the East China Sea and the South China Sea,” Xinhua reported. “This range covered the maritime territory that should be governed by China, according to the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, as well as the islands in the South China Sea, which have been its territory since ancient times.”

And that has been the rhetoric of international thuggery since ancient times, tarted up with a reference to the UN.

The Taiwanese aren’t helping matters, either. At the end of May:

Taiwan expressed regret Saturday at Japan’s intention to expand its military airspace identification boundary to include all of Japan’s westernmost islands, saying it will not accept the decision. The Foreign Ministry said in a statement that Japan acted unilaterally in a manner that infringes Taiwan’s sovereignty.

How dare the Japanese include its own territory in its defensive perimeter.

Here’s the nature of the infringement of Taiwanese sovereignty:

Japanese Defense Ministry officials said Wednesday they plan to extend Japan’s Air Defense Identification Zone — now along the 123 degrees east longitude line — to include Yonakuni Island, Japan’s westernmost territory and the closest to Taiwan, as well as waters to the island’s west.

The line is a national defense perimeter within which aircraft must provide flight details to aviation authorities before entering. Failure to do so can prompt interception by the military.

What makes the Taiwanese think this is an infringement of their sovereignty is their claim on some of the same islands in the area. Would their response have been any different had the Japanese told them about it first? Unlikely–to the Chinese, Greater China is Greater China, no matter where they’re from.

The transparency of the Chinese motive for waving the bloody shirt of Japanese militarism should be obvious on the face of it (though it was enough to stump Reuters). Anyone who thinks the Chinese (and the South Koreans) are concerned about contemporary Japanese militarism for any reason other than as a weapon to deflect attention from the pursuit of their own advantage in the region, either in the East China Sea or the Sea of Japan, has not been paying attention. Indeed, in view of the Chinese naval expansion far beyond the levels required for national defense—as if anyone were going to attack them—the identity of the real militarists in the region should also be apparent.

Really, if the Chinese were that concerned about Japanese militarism, would they be doing this?

Along with the fall of the U.S. dollar and the rise of the Japanese yen in the foreign exchange markets, China has bought more Japanese yen and euro assets. In June, China largely increased its holdings of Japanese government bonds worth about 5.3 billion U.S. dollars. Since 2010, China has cumulatively bought 20 billion U.S. dollars of Japanese yen financial assets, nearly five times the amount bought in the past five years.

Because events are likely to proceed along this path for the foreseeable future, it would be instructive to revisit the background to the adoption of Article 9, the Peace Clause of the Japanese Constitution. Here’s the text for reference:

Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes.
(2) In order to accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized.

Now, here’s what Douglas MacArthur wanted the clause to say. (The italics are mine.):

War as a sovereign right of the nation is abolished. Japan renounces it as an instrumentality for settling its disputes and even for preserving its own security. It relies upon the higher ideals which are now stirring the world for its defense and protection.


The “even for preserving its own security” language was apparently deleted by the Government Section because the Section’s deputy chief, Col. Charles L. Kades, felt every country was entitled to self-preservation. (Kades was close to MacArthur.)

The Japanese Diet accepted the article on 3 November 1946. Not that they thought they had much choice:

The Japanese government was reportedly shocked at the breadth of the Article, but felt that there was little they could do to oppose the Occupation’s version since MacArthur had personally pushed for its adoption.

(The preceding three quotes are from a 40 page pdf file. Use the search function to find them in the document.)

It should also have been apparent long before now that Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution is a dated relic from an age that no longer exists, was espoused by people whose perspective is no longer relevant, and whose continued existence is counterproductive.

In 1945, that might have been understandable, even assuming one fell for the “peace-loving Soviet people” routine (or was treacherous enough to promote it). Today, that attitude would be inexcusable for anyone other than a junior high school girl.

But the circumstances of the modern age present a different set of problems. Even though Japan has a security treaty with the United States, some Japanese have wondered if the Americans would really come to their defense if attacked–and that was before the presidency of Barack Obama, whose behavior suggests he’d prefer to be the head of the Non-Aligned Nations Movement.

Then there is the omnipresence of the mass media, the presumption of its servant-mandarin class that they are the ones to define the parameters of political debate, their preference for drama of any kind over substance when defining those parameters, and the inevitability that politicians will choose their careers and the perquisites of office rather than take a strong and principled stand. All these factors make it unlikely Japan will be able to rid itself of an obsolete Article 9 absent a clear and present danger.

It’s time to apply the original viewpoint of Charles Kades to all of Article 9. It doesn’t have to be amended—just ignored. Self-defense is neither an act of war nor of belligerency, nor is it a means of settling international disputes. It’s the only way to ensure self-preservation.

This is a start. Could anyone, in seriousness, accuse the Japanese of rattling sabers of their own, especially considering the lack of urgency?

The Defense Ministry is considering dispatching the Ground Self-Defense Force’s border security and coastal monitoring units to some islands in southwestern Okinawa Prefecture in about five to eight years in response to factors such as activities in the area by Chinese naval vessels, senior ministry officials said Monday.

The ministry is considering reinforcing surveillance around Japan’s western border as the Self-Defense Forces is only sparsely dispatched in areas to the west of Okinawa’s main island, but the move is likely to draw protests from China and Taiwan as the units would be placed close to islands disputed by the three sides.

The plan involves deploying several hundred GSDF members in charge of border security to Miyako and Ishigaki islands and about 100 members for coastal monitoring to Yonaguni Island in stages, the officials said.

To consider the Japanese a threat to anyone’s security, much less that of its neighbors, is to point the telescope in the wrong direction, look through the wrong end, and pretend the world hasn’t changed in more than half a century.

It could also be hazardous to the health of a large part of a globe. One doesn’t have to think of a response as self-defense. It’s closer to public hygiene instead.


Sometimes the Chinese approach resembles the Big Bad Wolf dressed in Grandma’s clothes reassuring Little Red Riding Hood. Try these excerpts from an op-ed in a Japanese newspaper by Song Xiaojun, a military commentator with China Central Television, a former communications officer of the Chinese navy, and the co-author of the book, “Unhappy China”:

Talk about the “Chinese threat” appears to be escalating. This is most likely due to a lack of communication and understanding between the people of the two countries.

As any country starts to industrialize, its volume of trade grows. As a result, since security of sea lanes becomes increasingly important, countries have tended to rely on military muscle to ensure that everything proceeds safely.

This is what European countries and the United States have done. Why then does China become a target of criticism when it tries to do the same?

In proportion with China’s economic development, its imports of resources have surged. It is only natural for the Chinese navy to protect the country’s sea lanes.

“Unhappy China” indeed.

Perhaps Mr. Song should have read Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People. Remember, this next part is for a Japanese audience:

But even as China’s influence grows, it has no intention of resorting to colonialism or expansionism as practiced by the former Imperial Japanese Army.


The Japanese people should not forget that the Chinese people still hold a grudge against them over Japan’s past military aggression. It is not easy to erase memories of large-scale massacres of Chinese by the Japanese army.

Especially when the Chinese government goes to such lengths to keep those memories alive, including the public construction of more than 100 war museums.

By making a fuss over the “threat” of China’s naval forces, Japan runs the risk that anti-Japanese sentiment will flare up again. The two countries should take time to improve their bilateral relations.

In other words, if you get upset at our belligerence, it’s all your fault. It’s hard to believe the Chinese think anyone in Japan will fall for this.

But then they shift to the real villain:

The greatest factor standing in the way of East Asia’s integration is the presence of the United States. As long as the United States maintains its military and economic presence in the region, it will be difficult to create the kind of East Asian community advocated by former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama.

Why would the Chinese assume that most Japanese are interested in that kind of East Asian community? And it’s hard to believe the Chinese think…wait, I already said that. But that doesn’t make it any easier to believe.

Have you caught the historical irony? The Imperial Japanese wanted to drive out the Western colonialists and create a Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. The imperial Chinese incessantly reference Japanese behavior of a bygone era–and want to drive out the Western colonialists and create a greater East Asia co-prosperity sphere.

And guess who the Chinese are offering as guarantors of the New World Order:

If the United States is unable to serve as the “world’s policeman,” China is ready to take its place. Why shouldn’t China take on the role of the world’s top cop?

It’s hard to believe the Chin…somebody stop me!

But really, why shouldn’t the Chinese assume that role? After all, they have much more experience in the role of “top cop” than the Americans:

In its 5,000-year history, China for more than 2,000 years maintained its grip on East Asia based on the Confucian thought of governance by virtue. During that time, order was maintained centering on China.

“Grip”? Was something lost in the translation, or is it just difficult for the Chinese to keep up the charade for more than three minutes at a time?

At one time, Japan was the dominant influence in East Asia, with strong U.S. backing. Even if China establishes itself as a superpower, it will not seek to attain hegemony over the region, like the United States.

“All the better to grip you with, my dear.”

For this reason, Japan should quit worrying. China will aim to establish a community in which members are equal.

In other words, “get used to it”.

It is no coincidence that this op-ed appeared in the Asahi Shimbun, whose editorial stance forms a global triumvirate of useful idiots with the New York Times and The Guardian.

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7 Responses to ““…trusting in the justice and faith of the peace-loving peoples of the world””

  1. James A said

    Well its nice to know they are subtle about it. That is, if subtlety was defined as a aluminum bat with a semi-soft washcloth wrapped around the top. Is it any wonder most people are skeptical of Chinese military ambitions?

  2. Roual Deetlefs said


    Does Japan have the ability to combat this ? Yes. The resolve ? No. The expertise ? Yes. The belligerence ? No.
    Somehow I think the Japanese counterstrike will be one that is embarrassing to China. More like as not, something of a diplomatic nature, where their maneuvers aren’t noticed.

    Am I being silly ? Yes. But I think the Japanese have demonstrated a knack for unconventional strategies, with superlative results.

    You should read up on how Japanese mastered the North Wall of the Eiger mountain located in the Alps. The Eiger is also known as The White Spider. The cut a new route to the top !!!

  3. Roual Deetlefs said

    Some websites and audio interviews regarding the Rise of China and the decline of the West.

  4. PaxAmericana said

    Perhaps the tough part is that it isn’t a question of black and white. As Okumura-san says:

    “China is essentially a status quo power. But China’s size means that its natural growth by itself changes the status quo.”

    The morality of the latest leaders of China or Japan or the US aren’t very relevant – just how they perceive their interests. I would submit that Okumura-san’s view of the Chinese is correct, but the problem is that other countries, such as the US or Japan, want the old status quo. From a political point of view, Japan had a relatively simple foreign policy for decades: just do what the US wanted, but negotiate on the edges, such as over some issues with resource acquisition from countries the US didn’t like at the time.
    PA: Thanks for the note.

    China a “status quo power”? What part of their behavior as described in this post does that appelation describe?

    – A.

  5. toadold said

    A short time ago I watched John Stewart on his comedy news show do a skit on the “race card.” The faux black reporter of the show accused Stewart of being “racist” but Stewart didn’t react. The reporter pulled out a card and ran it through a credit card reader and it wouldn’t take it. Apparently his “race” card wasn’t any good anymore.

    I would be surprised if the “sins of the Japanese” card doesn’t expire soon.

  6. 21st Century Schizoid Man said

    The card is there so long as China sees it handy to distract its people. I used to wish Japan had a similar card somewhere in its pocket, seriously. Has anyone here noticed a good candidate? Probably no.

  7. Roual Deetlefs said

    Article from Pravda, yes Pravda, about a Pentagon Report expressing concern about Chinese Militarism.

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