For the optimists, the first state visit to Japan by a U.S. president since Bill Clinton in 1996, will serve to reaffirm the strength of the U.S.-Japan alliance as well as of Japan’s cherished privilege of being America’s best friend in Asia, especially in the context of an increasingly volatile geopolitical situation in this region.
For the less optimistic observers, the mere fact that the strength of the alliance needs to be reaffirmed is in itself a worrying indication, given the unmistakable signs of glitches and cracks that have begun to appear. The unprecedented difficulty Japan had getting Obama to agree to a stopover in Tokyo during this tour of Asia is cited as a telltale sign of the unease that is beginning to permeate bilateral ties.
Shifting Alliances in Asia
Obama comes to Asia with a vital mission of reassuring both allies and adversaries of Uncle Sam’s commitment to maintaining order in this part of the world. That will not be easy, since recent crises in Libya, Syria and Ukraine have only demonstrated how weary America has become of flexing its muscles – even when challenged. And in Asia especially, U.S. resolve is constantly being tested and challenged by China and North Korea.
Be it in Northeast or Southeast Asia, Obama will be met with growing doubt over America’s commitment. This has led several countries to start reshuffling the cards of existing alliances. America itself, while asking its allies to beef up their defense against China, is at the same time seeking Beijing’s cooperation in managing major international issues. South Korea, a traditional U.S. ally, is drawing closer to China in a move that, viewed from Washington, could threaten the solidarity of the U.S.-Korea-Japan alliance, especially when this Sino-South Korean rapprochement is being partly fuelled by their shared anger at revisionist Japan. North Korea, too, has thrown out its traditional alliance with China and has shown signs of warming to Japan in what may jeopardize the outcome of the Chinese-led Six Party Talks over the North Korean nuclear issue. Meanwhile, the Ukraine crisis has raised the possibility of a strategic rapprochement between Russia and China in the developing context of a new Cold War. Taking an ambiguous stand on the Ukraine crisis, China will thus be able to play the “Russian card” to bargain for more U.S. concessions in the management of Asian affairs, for example in its simmering territorial feud with Japan. Read the rest of this entry »
A collection of essays on the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-95 has obvious implications for modern China.
For The Diplomat, Shannon Tiezzi writes; China is gearing up for the 120th anniversary of the First Sino-Japanese War, which began in 1894 and ended with China’s defeat in 1895. The war was a devastating blow to China’s then-rulers, the Qing dynasty, as China had always considered Japan a ‘little brother’ rather than a serious competitor. The war is often seen as the defining point when power in East Asia shifted from China to Japan, as Tokyo claimed control of the Chinese territories of Taiwan and the Liaodong Peninsula (site of the port city of Dalian) as well as Korea (which changed from being a Chinese vassal to an officially independent state under Japanese influence).
” The war was a devastating blow to China’s then-rulers, the Qing dynasty, as China had always considered Japan a ‘little brother’ rather than a serious competitor.”
To commemorate the 120th anniversary of the war, Xinhua published a special supplement to its Reference News newspaper. The supplement consisted of 30 articles by members of the People’s Liberation Army “analyzing what China can learn from its defeat” in the Sino-Japanese war. Summing up the articles, Xinhuasaid that “the roots of China’s defeat lay not on military reasons, but the outdated and corrupt state system, as well as the ignorance of maritime strategy.” This conclusion has obvious modern-day applications, as China’s leadership is currently emphasizing both reform and a new focus on China’s navy.
“Japan’s victory proved that its westernization drive, the Meiji Restoration, was the right path, despite its militarist tendency.”
The PLA authors laid the bulk of the blame for China’s defeat on the Qing dynasty’s failure to effectively modernize. “Japan’s victory proved that its westernization drive, the Meiji Restoration, was the right path, despite its militarist tendency,” Xinhua summarized. Political commissar of China’s National Defense University Liu Yazhou compared Japan’s reforms to China’s: “One made reforms from its mind, while another only made changes on the surface.”
Though these comments are referencing a conflict from 120 years ago, it’s easy to see the relevance for today. Xi Jinping is trying to spearhead China’s most ambitious reform package since the days of Deng Xiaoping, including not only difficult economic rebalancing but also an overhaul of the way China’s bureaucracy (both civilian and military) is organized. In other words, China still needs to finish the modernization project that the Qing half-heartedly began in the 19th century. Westernization (what today China would call modernization) remains “the right path.” Read the rest of this entry »
(AFP) — Tokyo warned Monday that the seizure of a Japanese ship in Shanghai over pre-war debts threatened ties with China and could undermine the very basis of their diplomatic relationship.
Authorities in Shanghai seized the large freight vessel in a dispute over what the Chinese side says are unpaid bills relating to the 1930s, when Japan occupied large swathes of China.
The move is the latest to illustrate the bitter enmity at the heart of Tokyo-Beijing ties, with the two sides embroiled in a dispute over the ownership of a small archipelago and snapping at each other over differing interpretations of history.
Shanghai Maritime Court said Saturday it had seized “the vessel Baosteel Emotion owned by Mitsui O.S.K. Lines… for enforcement of an effective judgement” made in December 2007.
“The arrested vessel will be dealt with by the law if Mitsui O.S.K. Lines, Ltd. still refuses to perform its obligations,” the court said.
Chinese and Hong Kong media said the seizure was related to a verdict by a court in Shanghai that said Mitsui must pay about 2.9 billion yen ($28 million) in relation to the leasing of two ships nearly 80 years ago. Read the rest of this entry »
TOKYO — Jonathan Soble writes: For years, the sole armed force protecting Japan’s westernmost inhabited territory – the sleepy island of Yonaguni, population 1,500 – has been two police officers.
That will soon change: a new military radar base is to be completed on the island in two years’ time, guarded by 100 members of Japan’s Self-Defense Forces, a development that has divided islanders while underscoring Tokyo’s increasingly tough-minded security policy.
On Saturday, Itsuki Onodera, defence minister, will travel to the island, which lies 2,000 miles southwest of Tokyo and a stone’s throw from Taiwan, to break ground on the base. When it is completed in 2016, its radar will give Japan a clearer view of Chinese ship and aircraft movements in the South China Sea, including around islands whose ownership is disputed by Tokyo and Beijing.
“We are determined to protect Yonaguni, which is part of the precious territory of Japan,” Mr Onodera told reporters this week, saying the SDF deployment belonged to a broader effort to “strengthen surveillance of the southwestern region”.
That effort has been under way for several years, as Japanese military planners shift their focus away from their cold war adversary Russia – just off Japan’s far north – to China, which has been rapidly modernising its military and challenging Japanese control of the disputed islands, known as the Senkaku in Japan and the Daioyu in China.
Astro Boy Manga
Robot Space Trooper
TOKYO (AP) – U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel delivered a two-pronged warning to Asia Pacific nations Sunday, announcing that the U.S. will send two additional ballistic missile destroyers to Japan to counter the North Korean threat, and saying China must better respect its neighbors.
“…you cannot go around the world and redefine boundaries and violate territorial integrity and sovereignty of nations by force, coercion and intimidation whether it’s in small islands in the Pacific or large nations in Europe.”
– Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel
In unusually forceful remarks about China, Hagel drew a direct line between Russia’s takeover of Ukraine’s Crimea region and the ongoing territorial disputes between China, Japan and others over remote islands in the East China Sea.
“I think we’re seeing some clear evidence of a lack of respect and intimidation and coercion in Europe today with what the Russians have done with Ukraine,” Hagel told reporters after a meeting with Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera. “We must be very careful and we must be very clear, all nations of the world, that in the 21st century this will not stand, you cannot go around the world and redefine boundaries and violate territorial integrity and sovereignty of nations by force, coercion and intimidation whether it’s in small islands in the Pacific or large nations in Europe.” Read the rest of this entry »
Space Pilot X Ray
Gun Yoshiya/Taiyo (Japan) 1970s
The extremely competitive nature of the Japanese junk food industry means that you have to keep innovating though, and sometimes in the process of pushing through existing boundaries, you end up in strange new places, which explains why Calbee is now selling shrimp chips covered with strawberry chocolate.
For this crustacean/confectionary crossover, Calbee collaborated with Hokkaido-based chocolate maker Royce, which has in the past offered chocolate-covered potato chips. Believe it or not, though, there’s only one portion of the new joint product that’s completely unprecedented, the strawberry part. Read the rest of this entry »
Translated: “Captain Ultra Station in the Universe – Silver Star”
Casper the Friendly Ghost
TOKYO—Yuka Hayashi reports: Japan plans to establish a 3,000-troop unit specializing in amphibious operations “as swiftly as possible,” the defense minister said, publicly outlining details of the new unit for the first time as tensions with China continue over disputed islands.
“Our nation has numerous remote islands and islands of various sizes, and they give us the basis for our exclusive economic zone that ranks sixth in the world…That makes it important to provide defense for islands over the coming years.”
Japan has undertaken an ambitious project to create a force similar to the U.S. Marine Corps, and Japanese Self-Defense Force Troops have been receiving increasingly frequent training from their U.S. counterparts in the past few years.
A plan to strengthen amphibious capabilities was laid out in Japan’s new defense guidelines released in December. In detailing some of the specifics Sunday, Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said the new force is expected to include units specializing in handling types of equipment currently unfamiliar to Japanese troops, such as amphibious vehicles and the V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft.
Toko Sekiguchi writes: Standing with its western allies, Japan has criticized Russia over its decision to put troops in Ukraine, but at the same time has taken a softer line than others amid recently improved ties with Moscow.
Japan, whose diplomacy under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has focused on ameliorating ties with President Vladimir Putin’s administration, did join in a statement from the Group of Seven industrialized nations that it was suspending preparations for the scheduled G-8 Summit in Sochi in June. The G-7 statement said that this would stay in place “until the environment comes back where the G-8 is able to have meaningful discussion.”
I was disappointing to discover that actual members of the Japan Self-Defense Forces aren’t featured in this calendar, but bikini models and pop sex-symbols from the civilian world. Still, it’s an effective recruitment campaign…
Images of the 2014 Japan Self-Defense Forces calendar depicting beautiful women in uniform have been popping up on portal sites around Japan. The calendars were created to raise awareness of the JSDF and to “lift morale.” However, with this year’s choice to use, not actual members of the Japan Self-Defense Forces, but bikini model Azusa Yamamoto, among others, we have a feeling this calendar will be lifting a lot more than morale.
Here’s a sample:
Applications for the Self-Defense Forces increased by 20 percent with the addition of three moe mascots on their recruitment posters. We wonder how many young men and women this models-turned-military calendar will inspire…