Continued from the September 2012 Home Page. To go to an archived version of
that page click here:
September 2012 Home Page Archive. To return to this
month's actual Home Page click on the Signal Corps
orange Home Page menu item in
the upper left corner of this page.
from this perspective where China holds moral supremacy and
has the right to monopolize the accepted view of history,
with even Korea’s interpretation of history taking
precedence over Japan’s, Japan’s views on what islands it
has a right to become little more than fodder for argument;
an argument where the sides are defined in terms of those
that support history based on the Sino-centric order of Asia
and those who would use the international system that China
claims is being foisted on it by the west. If one adds to
this the historical fact of Japan’s occupation of Manchukuo
in 1931 and its alignment as a puppet state, Japan’s
occupation of Korea, and the various other occupations and
atrocities Japan committed to the former Sino-centric
countries during WWII, one can see why so much anxiety and
national passion exists within this group today.
For China, adding to the insult of having been occupied
by an unworthy culture from the lower world is the enormous embarrassment
that comes from having its dignity trashed when China was unable to protect
its tribute states from Japan’s aggression in the early 20th century. In one
fell swoop Japan demonstrated to all of Asia that China was unworthy of
sitting at the center of its own Sino-centric order. For a thin skinned
people like the Chinese this loss of face is impossible to accept… they
simply have to do something to regain their dignity. Taking control of the
islands of the Yellow and South China Sea is one way to do that; and of
course, it doesn’t hurt that this area happens to be sitting on one of the
world’s largest untapped oil fields.
With regard to Japan’s position within Asia, on the
whole, with all that Japan has done to the countries of Asia, one can
understand the anger many of these countries still harbor towards Japan. It
is this anger that makes it so difficult for countries like America to bring
the lesser sized countries of Asia and especially Southeast Asia into
alignment with Japan, in a common defense against either China’s muscle
flexing naval activities or its economic bullying.
Looking at Korea, it’s clear the North Koreans have
tossed their lot in with China, accepting their traditional role as a vassal
state of the Middle Kingdom. In return China has opted to side with this
subordinate state of the Chinese empire against just about every on-comer,
including the U.S. This can be seen in China’s refusal to elbow North Korea
into alignment with the world’s demands as regards either its nuclear weapon
development program, its periodic tweaking of South Korea’s nose by sinking
a boat here and there, lobbing artillery shells at Yeonpyeong island, or its
upsetting both South Korea and Japan by launching “orbital satellite”
missiles over their territory.
South Korea on the other hand is caught in the middle.
It clearly does not want to act like it is subservient to China (although
its economy is becoming more so with each passing day), yet it does not want
to too visibly side with the other countries of Asia either… especially
Japan, against whom South Korea holds a never ending list of grievances for
its past imperial war making and occupation.
Japan too, not because it was left off the list of
countries China blessed as civilized states worthy of receiving tribute
from, but because of the audacity of even creating such a list, holds enough
frustration with China to last two eternities. And the same can be said for
the Philippines, Vietnam, Myanmar, Cambodia, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia,
India, and half a dozen others. All have their grievances with China, all
with Japan, and most with each other.
The Bully Arrives
difficulty this creates for the U.S. military in trying to pull these
countries together to “contain” China is colossal. One reason is that while
some of these countries might be inclined to side with America, China exists
in two worlds, and the countries of Asia are never sure which one of the two
Chinas they are facing. Because of this they are unsure as to whether to
side with the U.S. (and let Japan become part of the process by U.S.
dictate) on an issue involving China, stand by the wayside, or quietly side
with China. In terms of the two faces China presents, the confusion centers
around this: on any particular topic they never know if the China they are
dealing with is showing its ancient face, the one that says China is the
Middle Kingdom and the country to whom all others should pay tribute (or
hell will befall them), or its modern face, that of the clumsy, overweight,
constantly whining, yet muscle bound kid down the block. The one that means
well and seems prone to share both his candy and pocket change with them,
but just can’t seem to get it together when it comes to playing nicely with
the other kids on the block.
While the countries of Asia fret about which face China
is flashing at any point in time, from our perspective the U.S. military
should see that they are one and the same. That is, even the mild one of the
clumsy kid down the block hides a child that will lose its temper and throw
its weight around if it doesn’t get its own way. Worse, one never knows what
will cause this ill tempered kid to become a bully and threaten the other
kids. Will it be because it is not included in the games the other kids on
the block are playing (think: joint oil exploration efforts like Vietnam and
the Philippines are considering), or because a piece of candy it thinks is
rightfully its own is claimed by another (think: the Senkaku Islands)?
Either way, when this bully decides it has been wronged
it has the capacity to upset the whole neighborhood. Sticking with the
neighborhood analogy, bullies that have been wronged normally patrol their
neighborhood looking for someone to pick on. They roam the streets seeking
out a less strong neighbor to push around until the point is made to all
that if things don’t go their way everyone is in trouble. In China’s case
the streets are the passage ways of the South China Sea, the Strait of
Malacca, “String of Pearls,” and the Lombok Strait. The less strong
neighbors are Vietnam, the Philippines, Japan, Taiwan, Malaysia, and Brunei,
all of whom are claimants to the disputed Spratley and Senkaku Islands, as
well as Australia, Singapore, India, and most of western Europe, all of whom
will most decidedly suffer if the sea lanes that pass through the South
China sea are disrupted if and when a confrontation takes place over China’s
claiming control over the islands these lanes pass through.
To counter this China’s neighbors—especially Japan, the
Philippines and Vietnam—must decide how to deal with China’s flexing of its
sea born muscle. Specifically, they must decide how to handle China’s
increasing propensity to regularly position both naval and army forces in
any region of the South China Sea it wants to, and then use these military
assets to tweak the noses of any neighbors that happen to pass by. If they
don’t find a way to counter this attitude then this kind of roaming of the
neighborhood looking for a fight to pick is eventually going to lead to a
few fisticuffs, and if not a bloody nose at least a bruised ego on someone's
part. Considering the players involved, a bruised ego in this part of the
world is more than likely to lead to an exchange of fire at some not to
distant point in time.
Creating the means to avoid this confrontation is where
Japan comes in and both should and must play a major role in the Pivot
Strategy. But it will need the help of America’s Army and Navy to do so.
Before looking at what the U.S. military and Army in
particular should do when it comes to reengaging with Japan to support the
Pivot Strategy, let’s look at what Japan is doing on its own to counter
China’s increasingly hegemonic activities in its back yard.
Not surprisingly, while Japan’s past may have portrayed
a bull in a china shop (no pun intended) approach to the world, today its
people hold an antiviolence mind set tied to a pacifist constitution.
Because of this its reaction to both China and North Korea’s increasing
aggression has been milquetoast at best. To date Japan has talked a lot
about how it needs to take aggressive action, but done little more than
shift the deployment of some of its military southward, closer to the Yellow
Sea and the Senkaku Islands. Included in this has been the strengthening of
security around the Nansei (Southwestern) Islands of Okinawa Prefecture, by
adopting a new concept called the "Dynamic Defense Force." This approach is
supposed to signal to China that Japan is ready to counter China's growing
activities in the East China Sea. Ready, yes; but actually doing anything,
The “sister” countries that also lay claim to the
disputed islands will tell you that they too have begun to take steps to put
China on notice that they will not sit idly by while China rewrites history
to support its claims of ownership. In their case they will say that they
have set about acquiring greater offshore naval capabilities.
Well, if you consider repainting an old U.S. Coast
Guard cutter with the colors of the Philippine Navy acquiring a greater
offshore capability, then I guess you should be satisfied with the actions
the sister countries are taking. For our part, for both Japan and the other
claimants, all of their actions amount not to much ado about nothing, but to
little ado about a lot. If one looks close enough what one will see is that
they are waiting for the United States to do something. In their view, as
the region’s dominant military power the U.S. should step forward to provide
a counterbalance to China’s growing power.
of this series of articles will understand that while that may be what’s
expected, it likely is not going to happen without some clever maneuvering
on the military’s part. One reason is the Obama Doctrine (see
companion piece to this article). The other reason is that military
budget cuts have reduced America’s capacity to respond to events like this.
In fact, it might be said that both China and North Korea’s new
confrontational stance may have been triggered by their recognition that
America’s military is economically weaker than it has ever been in modern
history, and that the Obama Doctrine foretells a much lighter and less
effective footprint for America in Asia than what would have been expected
in the past. That being the case they are likely thinking now is the time to
strike to gain control over the disputed territories.
So while Japan and its sister countries run around as
(again, no pun intended) in a Chinese fire drill, waiting for America to
come and put out the fire, China and North Korea continue to make headway
towards their respective goals. In China’s case this means control of the
islands it lays claim to, the navigation routes that determine its ability
to assure a constant supply of oil to its military, dominance over the
countries that border its periphery, the ability to use North Korea as a
foil against U.S. actions, and an ability to occupy the choke points that
will determine the outcome of any land wars in Asia (all combined, “A2AD”).
In North Korea’s case it means acquisition of nuclear weapons, ICBMs, and
the ability to hold China to ransom for economic support in return for a)
acting as a foil to stymie U.S. intentions whenever China needs to deflect
U.S. interest from one topic to another, and b) a vassal state that will
vote in the U.N. in China’s favor on all world matters.
Considering all of this, Japan and its sister countries
may be right that only America can solve this problem. But how? Having a
Pivot Strategy is one thing. Implementing it in partnership with the U.S.
military is another. Expecting the military to achieve success in a
Sino-centric part of the world where the bully on the street is still
someone to be feared is yet another. Just what exactly should the U.S.
Changing Priorities Lead To New Military Imperatives
Our answer would be to say that the U.S. should build a
coalition that includes Japan and its sister states, and use this coalition
to push, shoulder to shoulder, back against China. Recognizing that we have
just spent several pages explaining that many of the sister states still
despise Japan for its war time atrocities and occupation of their countries,
as well as harbor sympathetic feelings for the peaceful days of the old
Sino-centric model, the reader would be right in thinking that it is going
to be nigh impossible to bring these various countries into a military
partnership alongside of an armed Japan, even if it is led by the U.S. and
designed to protect their interests against China’s power projection. But
the truth is, it has to be done.
Among all of the countries of Asia (save Thailand, a
country that has never been conquered or occupied) only Japan has a frame of
reference strong enough to stand up to the superiority complex that the
Chinese have. All of the others, even pugnacious little Vietnam that stood
and fought toe to toe with China in 1979, in a border war that cost 30,000
KIA, knows that in the end it is no match for the bullying neighbor to its
Japan however feels that it has not just the economic
and military might to equal China’s, but perhaps more importantly an
imperial past better than that of China and therefore the right to claim the
mantle of pre-eminence that China feels belongs to it. Simply put, Japan
feels that it is the elite country of Asia, not China. In fact, its people
look down their nose at both China and Korea. And strangely, as long as the
Japanese continue to walk with an air of indignation at having to have been
unfortunate enough to end up living on a little island in the middle of so
many lowly and unworthy neighbors, it will earn the respect of those very
same neighbors, to the extent that if it treads softly-softly they will
follow her lead.
That’s the strange thing about countries harboring airs
of superiority. While a country like the Philippines may abhor the air of
superiority the Japanese or Chinese hold in relation to them, in the end
it’s mighty comforting to know that they believe so strongly in themselves
if you are going to have to depend on them to save your country.
With this in mind it is easy to see that while old
animosities still live well within the minds of the Filipinos, Vietnamese,
South Koreans, and others of Southeast Asia, so too does their admiration
for Japan’s indomitable spirit and feeling of pre-eminence over its
neighbors. In crafting an anti A2AD response to China, if America’s military
is careful it can turn this oddity to its advantage.
The way to do this is to make Japan the coalescing
foundation—think of a platform—upon which all of the other smaller countries
gather to hear, discuss, modify, agree, and act with respect to the U.S.
military’s recommendations concerning China and Korea. Continuing with this
visual representation, think of all of the countries involved (including
Japan) sitting at a table of military allies, where each country is equal to
the other, but where the table and gathering sits atop the “stable
foundation” that Japan provides. Similar perhaps to King Arthur’s Round
Table where all of the knights and the King himself sat in equality, but the
decisions the group made drew strength from the availability of the King’s
castle, empire and military assets.
a coalition, with Japan as the predominant country providing locus vis, fortitudo, sapientia, the others might, having
the goal of projecting their combined military power to parry China’s
thrusts into their region, be able to accomplish the task. This is
especially so if America's military has an advisory seat at the table to
provide the right sort of NSS, NDS, NMS and JOpsC guidance. Coming together
to act both in unison as well as individually in partnership with America’s
military, under Japan’s economic umbrella, supported by Japan’s logistical
strength, these countries could act either independently or collectively to
project power to protect their regional claims. In doing so they would
always be assured that even when they acted independently they had the U.S.
military by their side, the strength of the coalition behind them, the
economic and logistical support of Japan, and its mantle of pre-eminence too
to portray the righteousness of their actions. Such an approach might be
sufficient to confound both China and Korea’s aberrant behavior without
leading to active acts of fire. And if it did, all parties would know that
China would be facing down the collective mass of the countries of Asia.
No doubt a coalition of this type wouldn’t let Japan
take a military lead, due to her behavior in WWII, but if America nudges
them sufficiently they will accept Japan as a better than equal whose
intellectual and realpolitik guidance they should follow. At the
same time these countries could provide their own military manpower instead
of Japans, while, again, accepting Japan’s gracious logistical and financial
support as well as words of encouragement as to the righteousness of their
mutual cause. The role Japan should play then should be one related to
administration and logistics, underwritten with moral leadership (think:
power, courage, wisdom) stemming from the better elements of its imperial
past. It’s goal should be threefold: a) to encourage and create a
non-threatening, cohesive unified response to China’s power projection by
bringing the other countries of Asia together under its wing, b) to then
turn over the stage it has created to America's military to develop the
joint strategy that will be followed, and to lead the military aspects of
this venture, and c) to support the overall effort with financial,
administrative and logistical activities commensurate with the manpower
investments the other countries make. Such an approach will be seen by the
other countries as based on equality, with recognition being given to each
country’s contribution in proportion to its own unique strengths and
capabilities. With Japan as the support base on which all others act, the
U.S. assuming the military lead, and the others participating as equals,
China can not help but notice that it has been outmaneuvered.
I've Heard This Song Before
all of this sounds vaguely familiar it’s because it is. In an earlier time
the Japanese put together a nearly identical arrangement and called it The
Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere (大東亜共栄圏;
Dai-tō-a Kyōeiken). It was a concept created and promulgated during the
Shōwa era by the
government and military of the Empire of Japan. Yes, that one. The one that
bombed Pearl Harbor.
Back then, the establishment of the Co-Prosperity
Sphere eventually led to war with America and ultimately the world. Today,
one would hope that would not be the case. Still while there are
similarities there are also important differences.
In the old Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere Japan
provided the military muscle and the other countries of Asia provided the
economic, financial and logistical support (at gunpoint) to the program.
This time it will be the countries of southeast Asia that provide the
military muscle and Japan that provides the economic, financial and
logistical support to them. Also, back then the Co-Prosperity Sphere was
established to muscle the west (think: Britain, the Dutch, Germans and
Spanish) out of Asia, leaving Asia for the Asians, with Japan gaining access
and control over the spoils the Europeans left behind as they went home.
This time no one will be enjoying the spoils of another country’s demise, as
the intent is merely to maintain the status quo in terms of keeping China
from doing just that to the group’s members. With this in mind, rather than
think of this new grouping as another Co-Prosperity Sphere, it might be
better to use the slightly altered term Co-security Sphere and also make the
point that even as a Co-security Sphere this organization’s purpose and
intent is vastly different than the old
SEATO group that closed shop in 1977.
What Are We Trying To Do, And How
Are We Going To Do It?
to how such an organization could be set up the answer is that while State
Department diplomatic support is necessary, since the real purpose of the
organization is to project military power to the Chinese, the entire entity
must be set up and managed by the U.S. military. And while on the surface
much of the friction in Asia looks to be of a sea born kind, thus suggesting
that the required response should be primarily naval in nature and that the
U.S. Navy should lead the charge (...or rather, steam full speed ahead), we would posit otherwise.
perspective the task is not one of keeping the navigation lanes open by
patrolling the Yellow Sea and pushing China' navy aside whenever you run
across her, but of occupying
the islands that control the approaches and passages to those sea lanes.
Navy patrols invite confrontation... taking a Pawn or two as in the game of
chess. Occupation of a home country's islands by itself however, especially where
ownership has been established under international law, suggests little more
than a power projection move, much like the Bishop and Knight provide in
chess... an ability to reach beyond their square, without really leaving
their square For this to work though one must have feet on the ground, not
sounding leads in the water. That is, the square must be occupied. And while
the reader might say o.k. then, let the Navy patrol the seas while you use
their Marines to occupy those islands that need a shore-born presence, we
would say that approach won’t work either.
Here’s the problem: yes, the U.S. Navy is critical to
an undertaking of this type. They are the only branch of service with the
capabilities to take on the wide ranging naval work involved. Their
professionalism, deep seated knowledge of the facts of the case, thorough
understanding of the players involved and the casus beli that led
to the current state of events is beyond question. At this stage, they are
the only experts sitting in America’s corner. But, they don’t have a ground
force capable of supporting their needs or of working with the ground forces
that will be placed into the equation by the other countries in this
Co-security Sphere. This is especially the case when it comes to Japan. If
Japan is involved, and she must be, the Marines won't work.
Why? Because the U.S. Marines, through either lack of
recognition or negligence on the part of both their commanders and those in
the Navy, have over the past 50 years burned their bridges with the Japanese
public to the extent that they can’t be repaired in our lifetime. And since
Japan is not only integral to the success of this program, but sets the
moral high tone for the other countries too, it is imperative that Japan be
able to work with the U.S. provided land component of this military
assemblage. And while the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (GSDF) themselves may be able
to work with the U.S. Marines, without the wholehearted backing of the
Japanese people the entire program will fail.
What’s the problem here, you are asking. Since when
have the Marines had their reputation trashed with the Japanese public?
answer is since MacArthur left Japan and the Navy, Air Force and Marines
failed to recognize that their subsequent actions trampled on the
sensibilities and sensitivities of the Japanese people. In simple terms, the
portion of the U.S. military that oversaw relations with their host, Japan,
have done a miserable job of keeping the natives happy, and left a bad taste
in the mouth of the Japanese public for anything having to do with the U.S.
Yes, we know… Japan was defeated in WWII and our
presence there stemmed from an occupation program, not an effort to create a
love fest between the Japanese people and the U.S. military. But that was 67
years ago. Surely, sometime during this past period the guys overseeing the
occupation of Japan noticed that our presence there was no longer needed to
“keep the peace”? If so, then why are we there?
Yes, yes, we know that answer too… to project military
power, as a point of presence in Asia, to bring stability to the region, and
on and on. It’s for all of the same reasons that we maintain military bases
in other countries. But again, surely, someone should have noticed that the
way you treat the natives when you are occupying their country after
defeating them at war is different than the way you treat a country that
graciously hosts your military in order to bring regional stability to their
part of the world?
One thing you most definitely do not do when working
with a host country versus an occupied country is place your military right
smack in the middle of their cities, or take up some of the most valuable
real estate the country has.
Yes, yes, yes again… we know that the bases we occupy
in Japan today were at the time of original occupation out in the middle of
nowhere, and that it’s the towns that grew out to the bases, and not the
bases that moved into town. But who cares? The result is the same: today we
occupy some of the best prime real estate in Japan… and we stubbornly refuse
to move out of those bases and give the space back to the Japanese people.
So what happens when you put your Air Force and Marines
in the middle of a city? Bars, clubs and prostitution grows up around them.
Local schoolgirls fall in love with American swabbies, flight boys and
leathernecks, to the consternation and embarrassment of their fathers and
mothers. Local boys feel threatened, jealous, and angry by the competition
these foreigners with money in their pocket cause. And the odd schoolgirl or
two gets raped.
It ain’t pretty. And it’s been going on at a fevered
pitch for 67 years now.
The net result is that regardless of why we didn’t move
our bases, or who is right or wrong on this issue, the people of Japan (and
Okinawa especially) are
disgusted with the U.S. military’s presence in their country. For our
purpose here, this makes it nearly impossible for the U.S. Marines, Navy or
Air Force to build a close enough relationship with the people of Japan to
have the citizenry as a whole embrace the kind of strategy the Co-security Sphere concept
Building Ties That Bind
One reason is that for the Co-security concept to work,
tactically, the U.S. military is going to have to build much closer ties to
the Japan Self-Defense Forces (JSDF) than we have ever had before. Close
ties are needed, as the strategic approach to be used for each individual
campaign of confrontation against China and/or Korea is going to have to be
developed by the U.S. military. In effect, this means that quasi-political
Japanese "policy" will be being made by the U.S. military, but implemented
by the JSDF. Seen from a different perspective, the JSDF must become the surrogate of the U.S. military
for the program to work. It
must provide all of the non-lethal support required to sustain a combined
allied set of military arms, where the allies include some 7 key countries
in addition to Japan. In this case the U.S. military and the other six
countries would provide the
lethal element of this equation, while Japan provided
the logistical support.
As an example, if the Philippines decided to initiate a
standoff with China somewhere in the Spratly Islands, and the Co-security
Sphere agreed to the tactical steps that would be taken (presumed here to be
for muscle flexing purposes, tending towards confrontation but far short of actually
going hot), then
the Philippines and the U.S. Army/Navy would provide the manpower while
Japan provided the logistics to enable that manpower to revert to kinetic
action if the need arose.
In an example like this, Japan’s presence in the
mix in all manners short of actual fighting is crucial to the projection of
a substantial and effective unified front against China. If America’s
military does everything, then this becomes a U.S.–versus–China
confrontation. If however the Philippines takes the lead, with the backing
of Japan and the other allied countries, and America comes along merely for
the ride to observe and perhaps give a little moral support to its allies,
then the confrontation will be between the Philippines and China, with the
support of Japan and the other countries of Asia being given to the
Philippine’s moral cause. What it won’t be is a confrontation initiated by
America with China.
Japan’s role in this process is vital. Without the
image of Japan standing side by side with the Philippines the power
projection would just be projection… with no power. Yet because we know that
the Allies in the Co-security Sphere will not let Japan enter the fray with
loaded weapons unless they absolutely need her (due to her long history of
aggression against these very same countries), Japan’s role has to be to
provide the military logistics, not armed manpower. Boiling everything down
to its lowest common denominator, the proposed Co-security Sphere Alliance is little more than a
rework of the old U.S.–Japan “shield and spear” concept where Japan was
responsible for providing the “shield” to defend the Japanese home
territories while the US was to act as the “spear” that attacked Japan’s
attackers (see interactive graphic at right). Under this new Co-security Sphere approach all that has changed
is that more countries have been brought into the picture, to fight
alongside of the U.S., while Japan is being asked to broadened its shield to
include the disputed territories and sister countries as well, but only as a
As to what kind of military logistics are involved in
the previous example, consider transportation of the armed soldiers,
refueling of U.S. and Philippine warships in the region, un-armed
reconnaissance over-flights, et cetera. More than just shipping a few
hundred Toyotas to the war zone as they did in Iraq, this time Japan is
going to have to wear their military uniforms and take an active but unarmed
place in the battlespace. For this example, if the U.S. Army ends up sitting on an island in the Spratleys in
support of the Philippines’ tactics, the food it eats and the tents it
sleeps under, while being its own, will be brought to them by the GSDF.
Essentially, whenever a U.S. Officer turns to his side to order anything
other than military action or live fire, he will be directing a Japanese
staff officer to get it done. Their presence and active involvement in
everything short of armed conflict is essential to making the point to China
that the people standing up to it and saying that China’s policy of
aggression must stop are the countries of Asia.
For the U.S. military involved this will mean a closer
working relationship with the GSDF, MSDF and ASDF than was ever experienced
in the past. In raw terms it might see the involvement of, say, 6–8 uniformed
JSDF support personnel for every 3 U.S. military personnel. The operational
headquarters for an activity like this will be virtually crawling with
Japanese support staff, albeit they will be being commanded by U.S. military
Officers. And while the purpose of the Co-security Sphere would be to
resolve the China–North Korea problem without armed conflict, if a localized
confrontation did become hot it would be the U.S. and Allied militaries that
would be doing the shooting, with Japan providing unarmed but on the ground,
in the fight, uniformed logistical support. To set something like this up
requires that the Japanese people wholeheartedly embrace the concept. If
it's portrayed as Japan standing up to China they will. If however they
sense that the whole exercise amounts to little more than sending Japanese
boys to fight along side of U.S. Marines, they won't.
Returning to our earlier point, getting all of this
done will require that the
U.S. military first repair its damaged image with the Japanese public, and
then make sure that a) the Marines don't take a lead role, and b) the
program is seen as a Southeast Asia effort where the involvement of
America's military becomes one of providing strategic guidance, and, of
course, military assistance if needed.
Why is repairing the damage necessary? Because just as
the Co-Security Sphere Allies view China as the bully in this story, the
Japanese public sees the American military as a bully within their own
country. Overturning this view is critical to getting the Japanese people to
support their Diet when it votes to move the JSDF from their cozy position
confined to the islands of Japan and heretofore not permitted to be deployed
abroad to a position where they act under U.S. command in foreign lands,
all in support of the “lesser” members of the Co-security Sphere.
It’s a fine line to walk, but it can be walked if
America’s military can repair its image with the Japanese public.
Building A New Relationship With Japan
As to how to do this, the first step should be to
reduce the absolute number of American troops on the main island of Okinawa
to as small a number as possible. Note that we did not say send them home,
all we said was get them off of the main island. As to who will do their
work if they are removed the answer is in the 4th paragraph above: the
JSDF. If the people that live in the vicinity of Kadena Air Base, Camp
Foster, the Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, Camp Hansen, Camp Schwab,
Torii Station, and Camp Kinser saw, as we suggested above, 8 uniformed JSDF
personnel for every 3 U.S. military personnel their impression of what goes
on at these bases would change. This is especially true if the 8 JSDF
lived with their families off base and were an active part of the local
social order. Under such a situation the image conveyed would be that of a set
of Japanese bases hosting the occasional U.S. serviceman, rather than the
other way around.
Considering that in the Prefecture of Okinawa there are
an additional 7 other bases to those listed above, totaling 14 U.S. bases
occupying 233 square kilometers (90 square miles) of land, amounting to
fully 18% of the main island, and that of the 40,000 American forces in
Japan two-thirds of them are in the Prefecture of Okinawa, opting to
continue with this travesty and expect to be welcomed with open arms is
foolish. And in case anyone has missed the point as to why the locals feel
we have worn out our welcome, it is because between 1972 and 2009 there were
5,634 criminal offenses committed by US servicemen, including 25 murders,
385 burglaries, 25 arsons, 127 rapes, 306 assaults and 2,827 thefts. And
while it may not be true, and it’s likely undeserved, whether we like it or
not the local populace attributes this crime wave to the Marines more so
than any other branch.
As to where to put the U.S. military that are removed
from the main island of Okinawa, it may not be the most economical thing to
do, but it is clearly possible to move them to one of the contested Senkaku
Islands where, with the Japanese government’s help and funding, one or more
of the islands can be expanded to provide a standalone base for the U.S. to
“occupy.” Taking an approach like this would not only resolve the Okinawa
controversy but would make a major statement to China about Japan’s
intentions regarding the Senkakus, especially if the island expansion effort was seen as an
undertaking of the government of Japan rather than the U.S.
As to whether it is feasible to expand one of the
uninhabited Japanese islands so that it is large enough to serve as a U.S.
military base or not, there is no doubt it is. Japan already proved this
when it built the Kansai International Airport on a manmade island south of
Osaka. While it is only 4 square miles in size, it nevertheless handles some
120,000 aircraft movements a year (328 per day). This traffic level is more
than Kadena Air Base itself handles on a daily basis.
If two or three of
these were appended to one of the Senkaku Islands, and the U.S. Army and Air
Force moved onto it (the Navy can continue to occupy its port facilities),
and the Okinawa bases scaled back to 15% or less of their current sizes, and
then populated with the 8-to-3 ratio of Japanese to U.S. troops discussed
above, the whole issue of how to resolve the Okinawa problem would disappear.
Instead what would be seen would be a Japanese military presence in a series
of much smaller military posts on the main island of Okinawa, backed up with
a joint Japanese–U.S. presence on a series of new, manmade islands
constructed in the middle of the very same but contested islands that Japan claims it owns anyway.
Stated another way, if we’re going to develop a set of military policies to
support the Pivot Strategy, and use the U.S. military to implement them, and
therein take a stand against both China and North Korea’s aggressiveness, then
damned it let’s get serious about it and take that stand. Get the U.S. military out of Okinawa and
put them on the pieces of rock that matter: the ones everyone is arguing
As to why the U.S. Army should take the lead in this
effort to implement a new series of military tactics to support the Pivot
Strategy, although the prospects are remote today that China will either mount
conventional military attacks against the sea-lanes in question or try to
take control over a disputed island or two for the foreseeable future, the
possibility cannot be ruled out that hostilities could break out between
China and one of the Asian states in the South China Sea in the future, perhaps as a
result of an incident that spins out of control. If such a scenario takes place China might seek to
discourage U.S. military involvement by raising the costs of conflict enough
to weaken U.S. resolve. The Chinese could calculate, whether correctly or
not, that the United States might hesitate to place its naval carriers at
risk, and that China’s growing cruise and ballistic missile capabilities
would provide Beijing with a credible “sea denial” option.
Because of this
natural proclivity to see the U.S. Navy as the primary opponent that China
faces it might be best to remove this threat/temptation and, depending
on your point of view, either substitute the U.S. Army (via its presence on
a disputed island or two) or buttress the U.S. Navy’s presence and
capabilities by paralleling their efforts with those of an Army regiment or
two on a couple of islands in the middle of those all important sea lanes. If
such a presence were made known not by the U.S. but by a Co-security Sphere
Alliance of the nations of Asia (the ones that lay claim to the islands involved) and
through whose waters the navigable sea lanes pass, with Japan as the
provisional head, then it would be clear that the only way to resolve this
problem is by negotiation and friendly discussion amongst the claimants,
instead of by bullying.
U.S. Action Items
Using the concept of a Co-security Sphere composed of
like minded allies the strategic military imperatives the U.S. military and
the U.S. Army in particular must embrace if they are to support the new
Pivot Strategy include the following.
● First and foremost the U.S. government and especially
the U.S. military advisors and commanders that undertake the exercise to
migrate Japan towards a new relationship with both the U.S. and the other
claimants to the disputed territories must understand that it’s not the
U.S.’ place to pass judgment on whether China’s claims to the disputed
territories have merit or not. The reason is that the dispute stems from
different views of a shared history to which the United States was not a
participant. Instead, without encouraging any of the allies in this dispute
to take a harder stand than they are comfortable with, the U.S. must a) bring
to bear its maximum diplomatic and military efforts towards diffusing the
tensions that exists, not increasing them, and b) allow those tensions to ratchet
support for its allies' claims to their territories only to the extent
that international law supports those claims.
At the same time the U.S. must do its best to refocus the
attention of the Co-security Sphere members on their own central security
interests, building among the group a means to share the responsibility for
insuring each other’s future, with Japan as the acknowledged platform that
supports the group but otherwise no more than a co-equal. In this regard the U.S.
Army can play a major role as it brings into place the military officers of
each country, as training, doctrine and operational matters are reviewed and
developed among them with regard to the group’s shared roles, missions, and
capabilities. During these exchange engagements the U.S. can work to help
Japan’s leading officer corps come to grips with, confront and diffuse the
historical issues that are at the root of the aversion many of the allies
still feel towards Japan. If this is not done, the alliance will fail to
realize its full potential.
South Korea presents just such an example, where the
U.S. can help the Japanese understand why, for example, the comfort women
issue simply will not go away without some sort of recognition from Japan’s
military of its responsibility in this regard. As to what kind of
“recognition” Japan’s military can take, among a group of equals and like
minded officers all focused on working together to deal with China, informal
talk and admissions of culpability from the Japanese may go further than
political hyperbole and public apologies coming from Japan’s Diet. Towards this end the U.S.
Army’s senior Officers can help encourage a frank and even, although
private, discussion among the officers involved, without taking sides.
● As the U.S. military makes headway in creating closer
bonds between Japan and the military representatives of the other allied
members, U.S. Officers should encourage these same Japanese officers to
expand their engagement in regional forums so that the growing strength of
the Co-security Sphere alliance can be broadcast to and felt by all. Such an
approach will assure that not just in the short term but also over the long
term the other countries of this part of the world will know that this group
is prepared to paper over its past differences and work together towards a
mutually respectful relationship among themselves and as a group towards all
others. This knowledge, once it permeates the world, will check any thoughts
other countries have about taking a stance against any one member of the
group. Important among the countries that should be reached out to by the
Japanese military corps even more so than has been done in the past are Australia, India, Thailand, and the countries of
● To assure that the headway the U.S. military makes in
helping Japan build closer ties to the militaries of its sister countries
continues, America’s military leaders should encourage Japan to demonstrate
its commitment to upholding its role within the Co-security Sphere as the
provider of intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR)
capabilities as well as logistical support, by working to expand its
capacity in these areas. One way Japan can do this is by not only
demonstrating its competence in these areas but also working to share these
capabilities on both a bilateral and multilateral basis with the group’s
In terms of acquiring competence in these areas, wherever possible
the U.S. should transfer its own best of class military technique and
technology to Japan on these matters. In working to impress the members of
the coalition of its intent and ability to contribute to the defense of the
group through these actions Japan will be making a giant leap forward in
placing the rancor of the past firmly in the past, allowing all of the
members and Japan itself to move on towards building new relations for the
21st century and beyond.
This latter effort is needed as in the event of a
serious confrontation with either China or North Korea the allies will
require a more vigorous, collective, and interoperable set of intelligence,
surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities and operations than they have
ever needed before. Additionally these ISR capabilities will need to be able
to extend well beyond Japan’s territory into areas it has not previously
roamed on a regular basis, including those of its sister countries. As the
ISR and logistical platform of the Co-security Sphere, demonstrating that it
is serious about doing this work and being a responsible member of the
organization will allow the Co-security Sphere to respond in full
cooperation to any event that threatens its security, whether in peacetime,
during tension, or in event of crisis or war. The U.S. military that directs
the Co-security Sphere’s efforts not only can help Japan do this, but they must
take responsiblity for getting it done.
● A Co-security Sphere approach to managing the
China–North Korea issue is going to require a level of joint
interoperability with Japan unlike anything that has occurred to date. The
U.S. military Officers assigned to this task must not only accept the
challenge of creating new bi-lateral relations with the JSDF, but also
dedicate themselves to its success. In fact, accomplishing this task should
be at the core of their duties. In all ways they must be measured and graded
on their success in helping Japan build new military-to-military ties with
the sister country allies, in a way that projects a unified front to China
and North Korea. More than just being an internal DOD effort, the Departments of
Defense and State must press to a) give the U.S. military the autonomy and
budget it needs to succeed, b) support it in all they say and do, and as
importantly c) lobby the Japanese Ministries of Defense (MOD) and Foreign
Affairs (MOFA) to do the same. In a time of budgetary constraints leaving
this effort to lower level officials or trying to do it on the cheap will
lead to disaster and possible armed conflict with China when some lower
level U.S. official acts irrationally.
● Training of the forces of the Co-security Sphere in
combined arms operation is critical. While the intent is certainly not to
take action that leads to actual fighting between the opposing parties, the
Co-security Sphere militaries must be up to the challenge if it happens. To
assure this is so the U.S. military needs to improve the quality of its
bilateral defense exercises. It can do this by bringing into play all sorts
and number of likely scenarios that might reflect real life outcomes. For
example, rather than depend for training on military bases and airfields
the Co-security Sphere should mount exercises that use the hundreds of
civilian airports that are sprinkled among the member countries, not to
mention the islands that are being contested. By adding to this joint
Co-security Sphere exercises that use U.S. facilities in Guam and allied
facilities in Australia the militaries involved can learn to work together
more closely than China’s own PLAGF, PLAN, PLAAF, SAC, and PAP do.
● While not an important part of the Co-security
Sphere’s strategic military objectives the existence of this group provides
good reason for the U.S. military to expand joint development efforts
towards improved as well as future weapons. Where the military goals of the
Co-security Sphere program show weakness in terms of equipment held by the
various countries involved an effort should be made to design and produce
in these countries the near-term armament that is needed. If joint
Japanese–U.S. research is done to develop, say, a better integrated form of
military communication that uses the unique mobile frequencies and
transmission methods (such as FOMA and CDMA) of Southeast Asia, the
resulting product designs should be manufactured in the sister countries.
This coming together to meld research and manufacturing amongst the group
will again help to build ties between the various militaries in ways that
overcome the antagonisms of the past.
As to whether all of this is really necessary or not,
yes it is. First, Southeast Asia will never be stable and at peace until the
rancor stemming from Japan’s WWII activities is put to bed once and for all.
That means somebody must take the lead in helping all of these countries
resolve their differences on this matter. To leave things to fester as, from
time to time, they do now, only plays into China’s hand.
Second, Secretary of State Clinton is right in
perceiving a need to develop a Pivot Strategy that begins now to address the
growing weight of China and the intransigence of North Korea. Within that
Pivot Strategy the U.S. military must play a role, because as we have said
before the imperatives that drive the need to pivot come from military
matters. If the U.S. military is to play such a role then it must rethink
its relations with all of the countries of Asia. Key among them is Japan.
America’s military relations with Japan need to be made better, closer,
stronger, and deeper. That being the case, the U.S. military must
rehabilitate its damaged image in the eyes of the Japanese people, while at
the same time it helps bring the Japanese military into closer cooperation
and partnership with the other countries of Asia. Giving the U.S. Army an
expanded role in this area will help by letting the over exposed U.S.
Marines, Navy and Air Force step out of the Japanese limelight for a while,
and focus on their job instead of defending themselves against political and
social criticism from Japan’s own talking heads.
And if these reasons do not present a strong enough
case to get the U.S. military to act to develop a set of strategic policies
and tactical actions to take to help this troubled part of the world remain
calm, one only need read what the Chinese say their position is on these
issues. The Chinese have been unequivocal in making their stance known on
the status of the Spratlys. They have said that their South China Sea claims
are a matter of national sovereignty, pride and principle, over which
absolutely no compromise is possible.
Quoting from a recent Rand Corporation report,
Chinese scholars and academics with close ties to the
Chinese government echo this view. As one said: “Regional countries have
occupied China’s islands and reefs, carved up its sea areas, and looted its
marine resources,” adding that China’s moves in recent years are a
“long-overdue and legitimate action to protect its territorial integrity.”
If China lost such territory, “the legitimacy of the communist regime would
be questioned.” Echoing this sentiment, another Chinese academic said: “The
Spratly issue is about what is China, and what is China’s space.” Simply
put, any Chinese leader considering compromise on the issue would have to
take account of the likely adverse reaction of key domestic audiences.
It seems clear from the above that the leaders of the
Communist Party of China (CPC) are prepared to go to war, even against the
United States, to take possession of these islands rather than risk a
people's revolution that would displace them as the ruling government. Wouldn't we do the same if China tried to take one of
the Hawaiian Islands, and the American people were so upset with our own
leader's inability to defend the islands that they threatened to dismantle our
executive-legislative-judicial form of government and replace it with a
different form? Considering this then, are we prepared today to back a set of Southeast
Asian countries like those outlined above in order to avoid such a war?
If we would rather avoid a direct war with China, it might be better
to back them now than duck the issue. That, after all, is what the Pivot
Strategy is about: taking aggressive diplomatic action today, supported by
low level but nevertheless convincing military posturing, to try to settle
the land grab that is going on rather than wait for war to develop. For the
military's part, if we pivot and get busy
building a Japan-centric coalition we may be able, with the right enlightened
guidance from our own military, to cause the coalition to dissuade China from
The military imperatives we must undertake are these:
Expand the military's efforts in Asia by embracing the Pivot Strategy.
● Expect and structure the senior level of our military
in Asia to take an active interest in not just military affairs in the
region, but also those political affairs that can only be influenced through
● Restore and refresh our military's bruised relations
and public image with these key countries in Asia: Japan, the Philippines,
● With the following new countries, build new, vibrant
and close relations: Vietnam, Myanmar
● Work with these and the other countries listed above
to lower tensions among them, especially over the contested islands. Focus
on the military, but look for opportunities to support State Department
efforts to do the same on the civilian side of the equation.
● Convince the Asian military and government leaders
involved that a concerted effort that has all of these countries acting in
unison to present a unified face to China is better than each of them trying
to "go it alone."
● Present to China the face of a concerned ally of these
countries, indicating that while we will not take a stand on who own what
islands, we will defend to the last standing man the stand our allies take.
military actions we must undertake are these:
● Move our bases out of the cities in Japan.
● For any bases that remain, assure that they 1) remain
only because the JSDF wants to use them, and 2) are perceived by the public
as having been converted to JSDF bases. In this regard, insure that U.S.
staffing on these bases does not exceed 3 U.S. troops for every 8 JSDF.
Work with the allied countries to create and form a military centric
Co-security Sphere. Encourage the governments of these countries to form a
similar political support organization among themselves. If they fail to do
this or back away because of the obviousness of its purpose being to
confront China, at a minimum convince them that for their own defense they
need to allow their military to participate in the Co-security Sphere
● Establish and operate a specialized program similar to
the Joint Combined Exchange Training (JCET) system, where the effort is
focused almost exclusively on how the allies can collectively project power,
determination, and competence to China, in defense of the islands they claim
● Establish a program to conduct an ongoing set of joint
exercises that utilize all of the claimed territories of the allied states.
Focus on drills and exercises that use civilian airports, ports, other
non-military land and sea areas, and as much as possible the disputed
territories. On this last point, do not use those islands claimed directly
by China but instead use those territories that are part of, say, the
Spratley Islands, and clearly belong to the Philippines. (In every group of
disputed islands, there are those that China will concede belong to
another country, while at the same time they lay claim to still others.
Conduct the exercises on the islands that are 'less disputed.")
● Develop a set of exercises designed to physically
challenge China's presence near, at or on each of the disputed islands.
Monitor each island, and when Chinese naval or fishing vessels approach,
match their strength, plus one, in each case. Take no aggressive action, but
make it clear that their passage is at the behest of the Co-security
● Parallel all of the above efforts with a robust public
relations campaign that covers all media outlets, including social
networking (an especially important outlet given the propensity of China's
youth to follow world events via this channel). Design the program so that
the rhyme and reason for the Co-security Sphere's actions are explained in
depth. Take the moral high ground in these discussions and never fail to
keep it. Include historical reference and education on the subject of the
evolution of each island's settlement and inhabitation to substantiate the
claims of ownership being made.
● Constantly keep pressure on the civilian side of all
of the governments involved to work to resolve the matter through friendly
discussions with China, in order to assure that these military efforts do
not end up becoming the only and best avenue of choice for settling the
- - - -
Next month: Strategic Military Imperatives – South
 While the sea lanes and disputed islands are the major
threat to peace and stability in Asia, there are other flash points between
China, its neighbors and the U.S. that pose risk. An example would be the
U.S.’ continued sale of arms to Taiwan. These other issues aside, as regards
the strategic military imperatives that relate to the U.S. and Japan, the
issue of ownership of the disputed islands, the necessity of keeping the sea
lanes in this area open for navigation by all, and the need to build closer,
more respectful ties between Japan and the countries it formerly occupied
(for the most part South Korea, the Philippines, Malaysia, as well as China
itself) are the driving factors that affect the need to change the form and
function of the U.S.–Japan military relationship.
- To return to your place in
the text click here:
 These factors all fall under the term A2AD, or
Anti-Access/Area Denial. It is a term coined in 2003 by Dr. Krepinevich and
Bob Work to describe an opponent's ability to contest America’s freedom of
maneuver, most generally at sea but also over land. Pakistan’s ability to
close the supply routes that the U.S. uses to support its war efforts in
Afghanistan shows an example of A2AD in action. China is actively engaged in
trying to apply A2AD to America throughout the Sea of Japan, Yellow Sea and
many of the sea lanes that it uses to communicate with the world. While an
important term, the concept is nothing new as this mode of contestation has
prevailed since armies and navies were first invented. Of interest to us
here is its use as a simple phrase to describe the many items listed above.
The reader is cautioned that the term can apply to either an attempt to deny
access to a country, or the effort to stop such denial. In other words, the
term is usually used by both sides when talking of the same subject, with
opposite meaning being connoted by whether you are seeking to be the one to
deny or to stop from being denied.- To return to your place in
the text click here:
 The relationship China and North Korea share is
symbiotic. For China, one of the key values North Korea has and which causes
China to support it against all logic is that when China needs to deflect
America’s interest from a global event where America is winning the scrum
with China all it need do is prod North Korea to create an incident with
either South Korea or the U.S. By doing this China knows that America will
run to address this new incident, and in the process concede the point to
China as regards the other issue, in return for China helping America by
bringing the North Koreans back into line. Whether it’s firing test missiles
or testing nuclear weapons, if one looks one can usually find these things
happening at just about the same time that the U.S. is beginning to get the
upper hand over China on some other unrelated issue.
- To return to your place in
the text click here:
 Key countries of the Co-security Sphere: Japan, South
Korea, Taiwan, Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, Burma. Possible backup
players: Brunei and Cambodia.- To return to your place in
the text click here:
 Wikipedia, key word: Okinawa Prefecture.
- To return to your place in
the text click here:
 David Hearst, March 11, 2011, “Second battle of Okinawa
looms as China's naval ambition grows". The Guardian. UK.
- To return to your place in
the text click here:
 PLAGF: People’s Liberation Army Ground Forces; PLAN:
People’s Liberation Navy; PLAAF: People’s Liberation Army Air Force; SAC:
Second Artillery Corps (strategic missile forces and nuclear forces); and
PAP: People’s Armed Police (paramilitary internal police force that provides
additional infantry capabilities in timer of war).
- To return to your place in
the text click here:
 The Rand Corporation, The Role of Southeast Asia in
U.S. Strategy Toward China, “China’s Potential Military Threat To Southeast
Asia,” Page 22.- To return to your place in
the text click here:
Michael Swaine; The Diplomat; China, What’s Next?,
Avoiding US-China Military Rivalry; February 2011.
Mark Burles and Abram N. Shulsky, Patterns in
China’s Use of Force, RAND, MR-1160-AF, 2000.
Robyn Lim, The ASEAN Regional Forum: Building on Sand, Contemporary
Southeast Asia, Vol. 20, No. 2, August 1998.
Kosuke Takahashi, April 4, 2012, Japan sets sights on Pyongyang's launch,
Asia Times Online.
Richard L. Armitage and Joseph Nye, August 15, 2012,
The U.S.-Japan Alliance, Anchoring Stability In Asia, Center for
Strategic And International Studies.
Pacific Forum CSIS; Honolulu, Hawaii; Publication Number 33; May 31, 2012,
The Evolving Maritime Security
Environment in East Asia: Implications for the US-Japan Alliance.
Have a comment on this article? Send it to us. If you
are a member of the Association we will gladly publish it. If you are not,
well, it only costs $30.00 a year to become a member and have your views
heard... and because we are a fully compliant non-profit organization your
payment is tax deductable. If you would rather not become a member a $30.00
donation to our
Scholarship Fund will accomplish the same, and we
will gladly publish your views on this article.