Tag Archives: Senkaku dispute

Japan’s Parliament passes legislation allowing military to fight in foreign wars

Both the Chinese government and people long have feared and accused post-WWII Japan of “remilitarization” — a revival of and return to its imperialist military aggression.

Now that Beijing has declared its sovereignty (via an Air Defense Identification Zone) over the disputed Sengaku or Diaoyu islets in the East China Sea, as well as over the South China Sea, that Chinese accusation is becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. On July 16, 2015, the Japanese Parliament approved of legislation that, for the first time since the end of the Second World War, empowers the military to fight in foreign conflicts.

China-Japan ADIZsJonathan Soble reports for the New York Times, July 16, 2015, that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s party and its allies in the lower house of Parliament approved the package of 11 security-related bills after opposition lawmakers walked out in protest and as demonstrators chanted noisily outside, despite a gathering typhoon. The upper chamber, which Abe’s coalition also controls, is all but certain to endorse the legislation as well.

The legislation would allow the Japanese military, known as the Self-Defense Forces, to cooperate more closely with United States forces by providing logistical support and, in certain circumstances, armed backup in international conflicts. It complements guidelines in a bilateral agreement governing how Japanese and United States forces work together, which was signed by the two governments this year.

The vote was the culmination of months of contentious debate in a society that has long embraced pacifism to atone for wartime aggression. It was a significant victory for Abe, who has devoted his career to moving Japan beyond guilt over its militarist past and toward his vision of a “normal country” with a larger role in global affairs.

But Abe’s agenda goes against the wishes of much of the Japanese public, and his moves have generated unease across Asia, especially in countries Japan once occupied and where its troops committed atrocities. Final passage of the bills would represent a break from the strictly defensive stance maintained by the Japanese military in the decades since the war.

Critics, including a majority of Japanese constitutional specialists, say the legislation violates the country’s postwar charter, which renounces war. But the legislation is supported by the United States, which has welcomed a larger role for Tokyo in regional security as a counterweight to a more assertive China. In an address to a joint meeting of the United States Congress in April, Abe had pledged that he would enact the legislation to strengthen Japan’s already close ties to the United States.

Abe’s success pushing through the vote has political costs: Voters oppose the legislation by a ratio of roughly two to one, according to numerous surveys. The Abe government’s support ratings, which were once high, have fallen to around 40% in several polls taken this month.

Katsuya Okada, head of the largest opposition party, said before the opposition walkout, “It is a huge mistake to set aside a constitutional interpretation built up by governments for 70 years without sufficient public understanding and debate.”

Abe has presented the package as an unavoidable response to new threats facing Japan, in particular the growing military power of China. He seized on the murder of two Japanese hostages by the Islamic State militant group in January as an example of why Japan needs to loosen restrictions on its military, suggesting that the military might have rescued them if it had been free to act. “These laws are absolutely necessary because the security situation surrounding Japan is growing more severe,” he said after Thursday’s vote.

China condemned passage of the bills, describing them as a potential threat to peace in Asia and invoking Japan’s wartime aggression. Hua Chunying, a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, said in a statement: “We solemnly urge the Japanese side to draw hard lessons from history, stick to the path of peaceful development, respect the major security concerns of its Asian neighbors, and refrain from jeopardizing China’s sovereignty and security interests or crippling regional peace and stability.”

With opposition lawmakers boycotting the vote, the bills passed with the support of the Liberal Democratic Party, led by Abe, and its smaller coalition partner, Komeito, which control a majority of seats in the legislature’s lower house, the House of Representatives. To become law, they must still be approved by the upper chamber, but in the unlikely event that the package is rejected, the lower house can override that decision. Japanese judges are mostly unwilling to overrule the government on matters of security.

The upper house is scheduled to debate the legislation for 60 days, keeping the issue in the public eye and potentially fueling more protests.

Abe has long argued that the Constitution should be amended to remove its restrictive antiwar provisions, but changing the charter would require a national referendum that he would probably lose. For now, at least, a contested reinterpretation of the Constitution appears to be the most he can hope for.

On Wednesday night, large crowds gathered outside Parliament after the bills were approved by a committee in an emotional and chaotic session. The crowds were estimated by organizers to number some 100,000, which would make the protest the largest antigovernment demonstration in Japan since protests in 2012 against the proposed restart of nuclear power plants, a year after the nuclear accident in Fukushima.

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~StMA

Dir. of U.S. Navy Intelligence sacked for warning about China’s aggressive designs in East China Sea

Capt. James FanellCapt. James Fanell

In February of this year, at the U.S. Naval Institute’s WEST 2014 conference, Capt. James Fanell, 52, the director of intelligence and information operations at U.S. Pacific Fleet, said that the Chinese Navy was practicing for a “short sharp war” against Japan.

According to Fanell, the PLA Navy had been carrying out amphibious assault drills to practice taking territory in the East China Sea, specifically the Senkaku or Diaoyu islands that are claimed by both Japan and China. Once the uninhabited islands come under Chinese control, the PLA could then attack Okinawa to remove the facilities of the US Air Force and Marine Corps from the island. (See my post “U.S. Navy intelligence chief: China training for a quick war against Japan”)

Fanell also stated that China is at the center of virtually every maritime territorial dispute in the Asia-Pacific and that the Chinese were engaging in a blatant land-grab of islands that would enhance their exclusive economic rights to fishing and natural resources.

“I do not know how Chinese intentions could be more transparent,” he said, adding that when Beijing described its activities as the “protection of maritime rights,” this was really “a Chinese euphemism for the coerced seizure of coastal rights of China’s neighbors.”

Now comes news that Captain Fanell has been removed from his position as director of Navy Intelligence by Pacific Fleet (PACFLT) boss Adm. Harry Harris and reassigned within the command.

David Larter reports for Navy Times, Nov. 10, 2014, that Capt. Fanell’s remarks about China preparing for a “short sharp war” with Japan ran counter to the Pentagon’s talking points on building ties to the increasingly assertive Chinese navy, which forced top defense officials, including the 4-star head of the Army and the Pentagon spokesman, to respond to his comment in the following days.

PACFLT did not disclose the relief, saying that Fanell was not a commanding officer and therefore was entitled to increased privacy. “It is inappropriate to publicly discuss the internal reassignment of non-command triad personnel,” PACFLT said in an Nov. 7 statement.

The reasons for Fanell’s firing are cloudy, but two sources said the relief stems from alleged mishandling of classified information and fostering a negative command climate. Capt. Darryn James, top spokesman for PACFLT, declined to say whether Fanell’s relief was related to his controversial views, citing privacy concerns.

Fanell’s relief is the latest turmoil in the Navy’s intelligence community, and has raised questions about whether an intel officer was cashiered for publicly voicing a view that contradicted Pentagon public statements.

Fanell’s views have supporters inside naval intelligence, and he has become a high-profile spokesman for a more alarmist view of the rise of China than those espoused by Navy senior leadership, an intelligence source who spoke to Navy Times said. Fanell’s articles on China have been published by Hoover Digest, Naval Intelligence Professionals Quarterly and the U. S. Naval Institute’s Proceedings.

But his public remarks stirred a major controversy and forced both the Pentagon’s top spokesman and members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to repudiate his comments.

John Kirby

John Kirby

Pentagon Press Secretary and Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby told reporters that Fanell’s comments were his to express and that they weren’t reflective of the organization’s stance on China: “What I can tell you about what [Defense] Secretary [Chuck] Hagel believes is that we all continue to believe that the peaceful, prosperous rise of China is a good thing for the region, for the world.”

Ray Odierno

Ray Odierno

Fanell’s comments in early 2014 came at an awkward time, coinciding with Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno‘s trip to Beijing in February, when he was asked by a reporter to respond to Fanell’s analysis. Odierno said, “I’ve seen no indications of that at all,” referring to Fanell’s analysis that China was preparing for war with Japan.

The comments also ran contrary to the messaging from Adm. Jon Greenert, who has made engagement with China one of

Jonathan Greenert

Jonathan Greenert

the hallmarks of his time as chief of naval operations. Later in 2014, Greenert stated that talking openly of war with China — and a Chinese war with Japan would almost certainly trigger a war with the U.S. — was unnecessarily antagonistic. “If you talk about it openly, you cross the line and unnecessarily antagonize,” Greenert said at a forum in Newport, Rhode Island. “You probably have a sense about how much we trade with that country. It’s astounding. ”

Fanell is a California native and nearly 29-year career intelligence officer commissioned in 1986. He was responsible for damage assessments for Pacific Fleet during operations Desert Storm and Desert Shield. He served as a China maritime watch officer at Joint Intelligence Center Pacific in 1991, and served on board the carriers Kitty Hawk, Carl Vinson, as well as the amphibious command ship Blue Ridge.

He has been reassigned as an aid to Rear Adm. Randy Crites, head of the maritime headquarters at PACFLT.

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~StMA

Japan considers building its own fighter jets

AFP reports, Aug. 21, 2014, that a report in the newspaper Nikkei says Japan is considering building its own fighter jets after years of playing second fiddle in a US construction partnership.

There is a growing need for Japan to develop a long-haul, highly stealthy fighter jets in face of China’s increasing assertiveness in the East China Sea, where the two countries are locked in a dispute over a group of Tokyo-controlled islands that Japanese call Senkaku and Chinese call Diao-yu.

Japan’s attempt in the 1980s to build its first purely domestic fighters since World War II faced US resistance and resulted in joint US-Japan development and production of the F-2. But joint F-2 production ended more than two years ago and the last of the fighters are due to be retired from Japan’s air defense force around 2028.

F-2 fighters in Japan's Air Self Defense Force

F-2 fighters in Japan’s Air Self Defense Force

Japan’s defense ministry plans to seek about 40 billion yen ($387 million) in state funding for the next year starting in April 2015 to test experimental engines and radar-dodging stealth airframe designs for a purely Japanese fighter. Developing a purely domestic fighter is estimated to cost a massive 500-800 billion yen ($4.8-7.7 billion).

Four years ago, Japan’s defense ministry began work on the Advanced Technology Demonstrator-X (ATD-X) stealth plane to explore the project’s feasibility by studying lightweight airframe designs and built-in missile-firing mechanisms. The ATD-X was due to start testing experimental engines in January and the stealth airframe designs in April. The ministry hopes to develop the actual engines for the project in cooperation with IHI, Mitsubishi Heavy and other defense contractors in about five years.

Advanced Technology Demonstrator-X stealth plane

Advanced Technology Demonstrator-X stealth plane

Should Japan go forward with producing its own fighter jet, it will likely stoke fears of Japan’s military resurgence among its Asian neighbors.

Beijing regularly warns of what it says is Tokyo’s intent to re-arm on the quiet and that Tokyo’s selective amnesia about its World War II militarism means Japan cannot be trusted to have a fully-fledged military.

Last month the cabinet of conservative Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made a highly controversial shift in the nation’s post-war pacifist stance by proclaiming Japan has the right to go into battle in defense of allies. Tokyo denies its intent is anything other than defensive and, reacting to China’s criticisms, points to Beijing’s opaque military spending and its burgeoning ambitions as the real danger in Asia.

Developing its own domestic fighter is estimated to cost a massive 500-800 billion yen ($4.8-7.7 billion), a decision Tokyo will have to make by the 2018 financial year.

China sinks VN fishing boat; deploys 3 nuclear subs to South China Sea; troops on VN border

South China Sea

Bill Gertz reports for The Washington Free Beacon, May 28, 2014:

[Note: Maps, pictures and side notes are inserted by StMA]

China has deployed three nuclear-armed ballistic missile submarines to a naval base in the South China Sea, according to a recent photo of the vessels that appeared on the Internet.

Chinese nuke subs

The three Type 094 missile submarines were photographed at the Yalong Bay naval base on Hainan Island, located at the northern end of the South China Sea.

The submarines appear to be part of China’s plan to begin the first regular sea patrols of nuclear missile submarines.

Adm Samuel Locklear III

Adm. Samuel Locklear III

Adm. Samuel Locklear, commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, voiced concerns about Chinese missile submarines in testimony to the House Armed Services Committee in March.

“China’s advance in submarine capabilities is significant,” Locklear said. “They possess a large and increasingly capable submarine force. China continues the production of ballistic missile submarines. … This will give China its first credible sea-based nuclear deterrent, probably before the end of 2014.”

Disclosure of the strategic submarine deployment comes as China sharply increased tensions over the weekend after one of its naval vessels rammed and sank a Vietnamese fishing boat in disputed waters claimed by both countries in the region.

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For more on the sinking of the fishing boat and Vietnamese reaction, see “China Sinking Vessel Raises Tensions With Vietnam,” Bloomberg News, May 27, 2014.

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Meanwhile, China on Tuesday called recent Japanese military aircraft incursions during joint Chinese-Russian war games in the East China Sea both dangerous and provocative, further escalating tensions between Beijing and Tokyo.

The photograph of the three missile submarines is the latest example of state-controlled media signaling new strategic nuclear capabilities by China.

The submarines, also called the Jin-class, are equipped with 12 multiple-warhead JL-2 submarine launched ballistic missiles that have a range of up to 4,900 miles.

Meanwhile, one of the U.S. Navy’s nuclear-powered attack submarines based in Guam last week deployed for missions in the Asia Pacific and likely will conduct surveillance of China’s submarine forces in the region.

The submarine was monitoring a large Chinese-Russian joint naval exercise in the northern East China Sea that ended this week.

The Air Force also has begun long-range Global Hawk drone flights over Asia as part of a summer deployment of two of the unmanned surveillance aircraft to Japan.

China-Japan ADIZs

On Tuesday, a Chinese general called the intrusion into military exercises by Japanese warplanes “dangerous” and “provocative.”

“Japan unilaterally stirred up the military jets’ encounter over the East China Sea,” Sun Jianguo, deputy chief of general staff of the People’s Liberation Army, told Xinhua, referring to the Japanese jets’ confrontation by Chinese jets.

The jets flew in the unilaterally declared Chinese air defense identification zone that Tokyo, Washington and other Asia states do not recognize.

The incident occurred as Chinese and Russian warships were engaged in naval maneuvers.

“Japan’s move, like its decision to purchase the Diaoyu [Senkaku] Islands in 2012 so as to change the status quo, is very dangerous and provocative,” Sun said

The encounter between Japanese and Chinese jet fighters took place May 24 over open waters as the Japanese sought to monitor the military exercises.

The Vietnamese fishing boat sank Monday after colliding with a Chinese patrol vessel near the disputed Paracel Islands, in the South China Sea, where China raised tensions by beginning undersea oil drilling.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters the vessel sinking is troubling.

“We remain concerned about dangerous conduct and intimidation by vessels operating in this area by the Chinese,” she said. “We continue to call on all parties to exercise restraint and take steps to lower the tensions and conduct themselves in a safe and, of course, professional manner.”

Relations between Hanoi and Beijing remain tense over the maritime dispute. Protests were held recently in communist Vietnam against communist China.

There have been unconfirmed reports that Chinese military forces were massing near the Chinese border with Vietnam. The two nations fought a brief conflict early 1979, after Chinese forces invaded and captured several cities before retreating.

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For more on the PLA massing near the Sino-Vietnamese border, see “Chinese Military Said to be Massing Near the Vietnam Border,” Epoch Times, May 18, 2014.

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Regarding the missile submarines, Andrei Pinkov, a military analyst with Kanwa Defense who reported on the submarines May 1, said the three submarines at Hainan are a sign Beijing is speeding up the pace of deployments. Also, a review of the photo indicates that one of the three submarines could be a more advanced missile submarine called the Type 096, based on an analysis of the length of missile submarines, he stated in his journal Kanwa Defense Review.

The deployment is “intended to give the new SSBN better protection in the deep waters of the South China Sea,” Pinkov stated, using the military acronym for ballistic missile submarine.

Hans M. Kristensen, an analyst with the Federation of American Scientists, said China now has three or four Type-094s.

China over the past decade has built an extensive naval infrastructure for its underwater forces, including upgraded naval bases, submarine hull demagnetization facilities, underground facilities and high-bay buildings for missile storage and handling, and covered tunnels and railways to conceal the activities from prying eyes in the sky.

It is not known if the Chinese will deploy actual nuclear warheads with the submarines or continue the past Chinese practice of keeping warheads in central storage sites for deployment in a crisis.

The South Sea Fleet naval facilities on Hainan Island are under significant expansion,” Kristensen stated in a recent blog post. “The nuclear submarine base at Longpo has been upgraded to serve as the first nuclear submarine base in the South China Sea.

The base also includes a submarine tunnel that is part of an underwater complex of nuclear facilities on Hainan.

The Washington Free Beacon first reported in July that China would begin the first sea patrols of the Type 094 some time this year.

China conducted a test flight of the JL-2 missile, the system to be deployed on the Type 094, in August 2012.

A report by the National Air and Space Intelligence Center last year stated that the JL-2 “will, for the first time, allow Chinese SSBNs to target portions of the United States from operating areas located near the Chinese coast.”

China’s jingoistic Global Times on Oct. 28 published an unprecedented report that revealed a nuclear missile strike on the western United States with JL-2 missiles could kill up to 12 million Americans.

The Obama administration and senior Navy officials were silent regarding the nuclear attack threat, which included graphics showing nuclear plumes and collateral damage caused by radiation.

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See “China’s state media boast of Chinese nuclear subs attacking U.S. cities,” Nov. 3, 2013.

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The congressional U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission stated in a report several years ago that China is planning to deploy an anti-satellite missile on its missile submarines.

Anti-satellite missiles are key elements of China’s anti-access, area denial capabilities designed to drive the U.S. Navy out of Asia.

China only recently began publicizing its nuclear missile submarine forces, mainly through semi-official disclosures on so-called military enthusiast websites.

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US-China military chiefs openly clash; U.S. blamed for troubles in South & East China Seas

dempsey-fangPLA Gen. Fang Fenghui (l); U.S. Gen. Martin Dempsey (r)

Richard Sisk reports for Military.com, May 15, 2014:

A top Chinese general Thursday strongly defended Beijing’s territorial claims over disputed islands in the South and East China Seas and charged that the U.S. rebalance of forces to the Pacific was encouraging unrest in the region.

Gen. Fang Fenghui, chief of the general staff of the People’s Liberation Army, said “the rebalancing strategy of the U.S. has stirred up some of the problems which make the South China Sea and the East China Sea not so calm as before.”

Fang warned that China would respond to any attempts by Vietnam, Japan or other neighbors to assert their own claims over the disputed islands and reefs.

“We do not create trouble but we are not afraid of trouble,” Fang said at a Pentagon news conference after meetings with Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Dempsey appeared to be slightly irritated as he waited to comment while listening to a long-winded response by Fang on the current dispute with Vietnam over offshore oil drilling rights.

“Thank you for giving me the time to formulate my answer,” Dempsey told Fang.

When his turn finally came, Dempsey dismissed Fang’s objections to the so-called “Pacific pivot” and said the U.S. was committed to the policy.

“We’ll go because we can and should, and we’ll go because we have to,” Dempsey said of the rebalance. Dempsey also told Fang “We will respond to threats.”

However, Dempsey mostly stuck to his long-held position that the U.S. must build better military-to-military relations with China to avoid miscalculations that could lead to conflict in the region. 

Fang came to the Pentagon after meeting at Naval Base San Diego with Adm. Samuel Locklear, head of the Pacific Command. Dempsey met with Fang, China’s No. 3 military leader, last year in China and was returning the favor by inviting him to Washington.

At the opening of the news conference, Dempsey noted that China’s claims in the South China Sea could be seen as “provocative,” the same term used in recent days by the State Department.

Fang responded at length, blaming Vietnam for the current dispute over China’s movement of a $1 billion oil rig into territorial waters claimed by Hanoi. The action by China triggered widespread protests in Vietnam in which foreign factories were set ablaze and a Chinese national allegedly was killed. 

Fang charged that other nations he did not name had drilled for oil in the same region but complaints only surfaced when China sought to do the same.

“We believe the ones provoking those issues in the South China Sea are not China,” Fang said in an apparent rebuff to Dempsey. “When China does drill, we instantly become a threat.”

Vietnam officials have charged that Chinese ships have rammed Vietnamese Coast Guard vessels attempting to patrol near the oil rig, but Fang said the Vietnamese ships were attempting to interrupt the drilling.

“That is something that we cannot accept,” Fang said. “We will make sure that this well will be successfully drilled,” he said.

Fang also made China’s case in a separate dispute over disputed reefs and shoals with the Philippines, and accused Japan of reverting to World War II militarism in asserting its claims to disputed uninhabited islands called the Senkaku by Japan and the Diaoyu by China.

Fang said the Japanese claims were also encouraged by the U.S. rebalance of forces. “This is something that we can never agree (upon),” Fang said.

Despite their disagreements, both Dempsey and Fang noted that China next month for the first time will send ships to participate in the annual Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercises off Hawaii.

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~StMA