Friday, November 30, 2012

Tensions Between Japan and China: Nuclear "Cold" War Rising


There have been a series of articles recently about flaring tensions between Japan and China.

The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that "Japan's Spat with China Takes Big Toll on Tourism." Nov 28, 2012 p. A16

The article explains that tourism in October of 2012 was down 33.1% from October 2011. 

It still remains unclear to me whether Japan's drop in tourism stems from would-be tourists' concerns about exposure to Fukushima radiation or whether the drop derives primarily from the rising tensions in the region over access to resources.

One thing is clear, however, and that is the fact of rising regional militarism:

 The New York Times reported three days that ago on Japan's "military muscle":  

Japan Is Flexing Its Military Muscle to Counter a Rising China 

[Excerpted] Already this year, Japan crossed a little-noted threshold by providing its first military aid abroad since the end of World War II, approving a $2 million package for its military engineers to train troops in Cambodia and East Timor in disaster relief and skills like road building. Japanese warships have not only conducted joint exercises with a growing number of military forces in the Pacific and Asia, but they have also begun making regular port visits to countries long fearful of a resurgence of Japan’s military. 

And after stepping up civilian aid programs to train and equip the coast guards of other nations, Japanese defense officials and analysts say, Japan could soon reach another milestone: beginning sales in the region of military hardware like seaplanes, and perhaps eventually the stealthy diesel-powered submarines considered well suited to the shallow waters where China is making increasingly assertive territorial claims. 

Taken together those steps, while modest, represent a significant shift for Japan, which had resisted repeated calls from the United States to become a true regional power for fear that doing so would move it too far from its postwar pacifism....

The driver for Japan’s shifting national security strategy is its tense dispute with China over uninhabited islands in the East China Sea that is feeding Japanese anxiety that the country’s relative decline — and the financial struggles of its traditional protector, the United States — are leaving Japan increasingly vulnerable. 
“During the cold war, all Japan had to do was follow the U.S.,” said Keiro Kitagami, a special adviser on security issues to Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda. “With China, it’s different. Japan has to take a stand on its own.” 

Japan’s moves do not mean it might transform its military, which serves a purely defensive role, into an offensive force anytime soon. The public has resisted past efforts by some politicians to revamp Japan’s pacifist constitution, and the nation’s vast debt will limit how much military aid it can extend....

Majia here: In Dec 20111 Japan lifted its decades long ban on exporting weapons. Wall Street Journal: "Japan Lifts Decadeslong Ban on Export of Weapons" p. A8  Dec 28/2011

I've reported extensively on the rising "cold war" in the region
Its worth repeating that Prime Minister Noda in July of 2012 re-asserted Japan's "right to exercise collective self" defense (see the post here): 
July 11, 2012: Noda seeks Japan's right to exercise collective self-defense. Asahi Shimbun

[Excerpt] Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda expressed his willingness to allow Japan to exercise the right of collective self-defense, an issue that could further split the ruling party but would likely find support from the main opposition party.  

Japan also altered its Atomic Energy Basic Law in a way that is believed by some to allow for development of nuclear weapons by linking Japan's nuclear energy to its national security:

Mainichi: Atomic energy law's sly alteration is abuse of legislative process

"The Atomic Energy Basic Law was amended in the shadows of the hoopla surrounding the three-party agreement on a tax hike. The new clause allows the possibility of nuclear armament open to interpretation. It was an underhanded deal, in which an amendment to the Atomic Basic Law was merely incorporated into the appendix of a law on the establishment of a nuclear regulatory panel....
....Only at a meeting of an upper house environmental committee on June 20, when a DPJ lawmaker questioned whether nuclear arms development was the purpose of passing the bill, did it become public that a clause in the Basic Law had been revised.....
....the appendix in question adds a sentence stating Japan's atomic energy policy should contribute to national security.

What constitutes "national security?"....A deputy press secretary of South Korea's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade has also said that the ministry is "watching the situation closely."....

It probably comes down to the Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant," said a bureaucrat with whom I've been acquainted for years. "If the country moves toward the abandonment of nuclear power, that facility will lose meaning. If it is legally granted legitimacy as a facility for the military use of nuclear materials, then it can continue to exist. I believe that there were LDP lawmakers who thought of that, and bureaucrats who supported them...
...The Atomic Energy Basic Law went into effect in 1955, the same year that the LDP was founded. Fifty-seven years have since passed, and we are moving further and further away from democratic, independent and public disclosure principles. (By Takao Yamada, Expert Senior Writer)
Majia here: In the aftermath of the Fukushima crisis, secret meetings were held that allowed Japan to secretly begin re-processing (i.e., enriching) nuclear fuel:

It seems to me rather clear that Japan has the capacity to create nuclear weapons quickly, if they don't have them already.

It is indeed unfortunate that China's rise and Japan's decline is being characterized by what appears to be a new, emerging type of nuclear brinksmanship.

See my previous discussion of Japan's stockpiling of plutonium:

Jun 18, 2012
Japan has a major fuel storage problem and spent fuel management purportedly has been a driver in Japan's reprocessing requirements, according to Suzuki who contributed a chapter on Japan's plutonium breeder program ...

Oct 22, 2012
Niwa: Japan-China ties faces worst crisis in 40 years [Excerpted] The Japanese ambassador to China sounded a strong warning on strained bilateral ties ...
Oct 16, 2012
This came in response to a remark by a senior US official expressing understanding for Japan's moves on the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea. The islands are controlled by Japan. China and Taiwan also claim them.
Nov 12, 2012
Majia here: The article mentions tensions between China and Japan as one source of the drop in exports but nothing is mentioned about the nuclear crisis and contaminated exports. Japan's Economy Contracts in Third ...
Aug 13, 2012
"Japan summoned its ambassador from Beijing, in what appears to be a protest at Chinese vessels recent entry into waters around islands claimed by both countries" Simmering discontent between Japan and South Korea ...



  1. Sitting here in California, sucking up Fukushima fallout and four beers, slightly angry, so I bought a lottery ticket tonight.

    My thinking is if I could win 29 million dollars I could just pay that Japanese family for their land as a GIFT.

    My scratches only gave back the $4 I tried to gamble. Amazing the universe keeping the equilibrium. On the local $4 but, I still ain't hit the jackpot to help.

  2. I suppose there is always tomorrow....



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