Monday, February 4, 2013

Tokyo looking to expand military

Japan is getting bolder in its presence in the Pacific by teaming up with allies in the region to show a new assertiveness against China – just as new Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe seeks to enlarge the country’s military, contrary to its pacifist constitution,
He’s already said that he intends to consider constitutional revisions, enhance Japan’s security alliance with the United States and create what he calls a “democratic security diamond,” or alliance with friendly Indo-Pacific countries who similarly are concerned about China’s encroachment in the East and South China Seas.
One of the reasons Tokyo will be increasing its military budget is due to the financial difficulties of the U.S.
Japan has problems with China’s own assertiveness in the region over maritime rights for energy drilling and ownership over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands. Japan owns those but China claims they are in its area of influence.
In addition to considering expanding its own military, Japan has decided to help arm its friends in the region.
It has expanded its own defense budget to provide military assistance to Cambodia and East Timor and advanced Soryu submarines to Vietnam and even Australia.

In addition, Abe is undertaking an energized effort to make the rounds along with other members of his cabinet to Vietnam, Myanmar, Vietnam, Australia, Brunei, the Philippines and Singapore to garner support.
Many of these countries have considerable Japanese company investment in them. Thailand, for example, has some 8,000 manufacturing companies as Tokyo seeks to expand its investments in these Indo-Pacific countries.
Part of this initiative is due to the slide in Japanese investments in China as a result of protests against Japanese firms by the Chinese population.
For its part, Vietnam has particular issues with China over similar access to offshore mineral rights. Vietnam will now chair the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, promising a much more active effort against China in the South China Sea area.
Japan will particularly be pairing up with the Philippines which similarly is engaged in disputes with China over access to the South China Sea region.
Manila is seeking closer military arrangements with the U.S., especially after the Philippines almost had a military confrontation a few months ago with China.
Notwithstanding the history of the Philippines and Japan, which militarily occupied and committed severe brutality against the Philippine population, Manila backs a rearmed Japan.
Philippines Foreign Secretary Albert Del Rosario has said that there needs to be “balancing factors” in the region and that Japan “could be a significant balancing factor.”
As with Vietnam, Japan is providing military equipment to the Philippines. The recently finalized security package will include 10 cutters for the Philippines coast guard.
As the newly elected prime minister, Abe is becoming more confrontational in his tone against China over the Senkaku/Diaoyu island dispute.
“Senkakus are Japan’s inherent territory,” Abe recently told the BBC. “We don’t intend to worsen relations between Japan and China. China lacks this recognition a little bit. I want them to think anew about mutually beneficial strategic relations,” an indication that promises a more confrontational stance between Tokyo and Beijing.
This is in keeping with previous interviews Abe has given that show a more assertive foreign policy by Tokyo now that he’s prime minister, with the goal of containing China and bringing together like-minded countries in the region in his “democratic security diamond.”
Given India’s increased interest in its partnership with Vietnam over mineral drilling rights in the South China Sea, Japan also will look to extend closer strategic ties with New Delhi.
This would help Tokyo in its containment strategy against China as it increases military drills with India.

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