Monday, October 22, 2018

Calmer Seas: Japan and China to Resume Fleet Visits

Japan's Maritime Self-Defense Force and the People's Republic of China's Navy have announced they will be resuming fleet visits. They haven't done this since 2011, so this is a good thing. Japanese news sources say that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will make the formal announcement with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang when they meet in Beijing this week. By no means does this resolve the crisis in the South China Seas or Chinese claims to the Senkaku Islands, but the unilateral thaw in tensions is a step in the right direction to de-escalate growing hostilities between the two competing maritime powers. We hope this will lead to further talks that result in better cooperation and peace on the high seas.

Monday, October 15, 2018

China's Stealth Bomber Revealed

Seen here is Beijing's latest piece of military hardware, the Xian H-20 Stealth Bomber spotted over a gala held on October 7th. According to sources, this is only the prototype and will not enter service until 2025. Observers will note the striking similarity to the Grumman B-2 Spirit Stealth Bomber but the similarities will end there. The Chinese are twenty years behind us in this field of technology and still has much to learn or steal depending on your perspective. Not too much has been revealed by the Chinese but at this rate, that's all we need to know.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

No Flag - No Show - No Problem

Earlier this month, Japan chose to withdraw it's multi-national participation in naval exercises hosted by South Korea The reason being that South Korea asked that nations fly their national flags and not naval standards. Stating the obvious, the ROK objects to the use of Japanese JMSDF vessels flying the Rising Sun flag which they see as a symbol of WWII Imperial Japan. Naturally, Japan's defense minister Takeshi Iwaya objected to this request. Japan has flown the Rising Sun ensign since the creation of the JMSDF in July 1954. JMSDF vessels have participated in ROK naval exercises before in 1998 and 2008 without this unreasonable request. Chief of Staff Katsutoshi Kawano said the rising sun flag is the Maritime Self-Defense Force sailors' "pride" and "we absolutely do not go if we have to remove the flag." The Rising Sun is a internationally recognized flag of Japanese Maritime forces. While the South Korean government regrets Japan's decision but pledges to continue to cooperate with each other in the future. As far as we can see it, South Korea can only guilt Japan for it's Colonial period only for so many generations. You can only apologize so much before it becomes a moot point. We believe Japan's JMSDF made the right decision and sailed their ships elsewhere with pride under the Rising Sun.

Shinzo Abe's Article 9 Challenge

This week, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe renewed his pledge to revise the country's pacifist constitution drafted by the Americans after Japan's catastrophic defeat in WWII. While speaking to some 4000 Japanese SDF troops in Asaka, Saitama Prefecture, he announced his plan to specifically mention it's military's right to exist. Abe was quoted as saying: "You have gained public trust with your own hands. Now it's time to fulfill our responsibility as politicians to accommodate an environment where all Self-Defense Force can accomplish their duties with sense of pride."
Abe's political opponents say this is not necessary. It will take a two-thirds majority in both houses of government to pass. This push to revise Article 9 which called for Japan to renounce the use of force to settle international disputes forever has been ongoing since 2015. In the face of tensions with North Korea and the PRC on the high seas, the revision would allow Japan to come to the aid of its allies in the event of an attack. The American drafted provision hamstrings Japan's ability top respond to a crisis. PM Abe seeks to change that to adjust Japan to the growing threats in an ever destabilizing world. While some will see this as a license to engage in war, we see this as a geopolitical reality particularly with what is happening in the South China Seas and the temporary lack of leadership from Washington D.C. Enough time has passed since the end of WWII. Japan's Self-Defense Forces has proven it can be a force for good. We will wish for their continued success.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Newest Yasukuni Shrine Controversy

With only six months left in the Heisei Emperor's reign left to go, Emperor Akihito and the Yasukuni Shrine (as seen in this AFP photo) have become the subject of a new controversy. The  had recently criticized the Emperor in the Shukan Post weekly magazine accusing him of "trying to destroy the shrine" which is best known for enshrining it's war dead going back to the Boshin War of the 1860's. Naturally, all controversies revolve around the enshrinement of twelve WWII Class A War Criminals including Hideki Tojo. Emperor Akihito has not visited the Shrine since he was made Emperor in 1989 but has been visiting the grave sites and memorials to Japan's War dead elsewhere. Japan Today reports that the new Emperor and Empress has no plans to visit the shrine to avoid such optics. Meanwhile, chief priest Kunio Kohori has since regretted his inappropriate comments that included a claim that the future empress hating Shinto. From our perspective, this is a very unfortunate event that will hopefully not mar or cast a dark shadow over the Twilight of the Heisei Era. We like Emperor Akihito and we also love Shinto. This should not have happened and we suspect there was a harsh reprimand from the Imperial Household Agency. Chief priest Kunio Kohori has since apologized for his comments and is said to resign from his position. A successor will be named at some future date.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

First Japanese Troops in Philippines Since WWII

Seen here in this AFP photo are the first Japanese troops on Philippine soil since 1945. This small contingent of Japanese Ground Self Defense Forces (JGSDF) which included four armored vehicles was there to participate in a series of military exercises that involved both American and Philippine forces. While only fifty in number unarmed, their support role plays a host of both practical and symbolic purposes that will likely draw the ire of Beijing. 
The operation code-named Kamandag (Venom), is as reported from American military sources are in no way aimed at China which has engaged the entire international community with its military buildup in the South China Seas.
Japan's Major Koki Inoue is quoted as saying: "Our purpose is to improve our operational capability and this is a good opportunity for us to improve our humanitarian assistance and disaster relief training."

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Playing High Stakes Chicken on the South China Seas

It wasn't so long ago that the People's Republic of China made an outrageous claim of sovereignty over the entire South China Seas based on some 500-year old map. A declaration of which the United Nations ruled against.  Since that time, the PRC has been militarizing small reefs with airfields, missile batteries, and radar installations. Neither the United States or the United Nations Recognizes the PRC's claims, but that hasn't stopped the Chinese Navy from making aggressive moves in International Waters to defend what it claims as its sovereign territory. If China's claim were valid, the United States would not have been able to conduct flight operations from Yankee Station in the Gulf of Tonkin during the Vietnam War.  Not only that, but it would open a legal claim for Japan to claim Manchuria based on an 80-year-old map making an even greater International crisis China could have avoided. 
As you can see from these two U.S. Navy photographs, the USS Decatur came within 41 meters from the Chinese destroyer Lanzhou near the Spratly Islands. The Chinese warship came from behind and tried to cross the bow of the Decatur forcing the American Captain to throw the ship in reverse to avoid a collision. This was highly unprofessional on the part of the Chinese not to mention downright dangerous for the crews of both vessels. But this is what they are doing. They are engaging in a deadly game of high stakes chicken in International Waters where whoever flinches first may get killed. We at American Mishima hope it doesn't come to that. We believe this emboldened aggression is in part to test our current lack of leadership in Washington D.C. If this is what Beijing is counting on, they haven't truly tested the resolve of the United States Navy. Freedom of Navigation shall not be curtailed or infringed by an upstart world power ignoring International Law. Unfortunately, we do not see Beijing backing down, and at some point like the Cold War of times past, people will die, and history will look back at this time to ask why.