Foreign media: massive Chinese military keeps Japan at permanent disadvantage

Source: China Military OnlineEditor: Yao Jianing
2016-08-09 16:59

BEIJING, August 9 (ChinaMil) -- The website of Singapore's The Straits Times published an article titled Japan's Chinese Dilemma on August 7, which said "the reality remains that, while Japan is clearly determined to stand up to China, the Japanese are still fumbling into a strategic competition with the Chinese which they seem to scarcely comprehend, and on which Mr. Abe still does not enjoy the necessary political consensus inside Japan."

According to the article, the scale of Japan's rearmament ambitions is no longer in doubt. In sheer numbers, however, Japan's military remains puny in comparison to that of its potential rival; it has only 243,000 soldiers, a tenth of China's. Japan also has less than a third of the Chinese air force's inventory.

At every level, therefore, the Japanese seek to compensate for quantity with quality. And, for the moment, they have succeeded.

Military planners in Beijing know that the Chinese navy is still no match for that of Japan. Even if Japan's technological lead is sustained, the sheer size of the Chinese military means that, sooner rather than later, Japan will be relegated to a marginal and subsidiary position in Asia, always inferior to that of China.

Adapting to this inferior position will ultimately require a huge psychological change in Japan's thinking and actions, and there is no indication that the process of adaptation is even contemplated in Tokyo.

For largely understandable diplomatic reasons, the latest Japanese defence White Paper says virtually nothing on the topic. But even in private, Japanese leaders and strategic thinkers prefer to find every excuse to avoid answering this bigger question.

The article claimed that Japan is hardly the only country gasping - and often in vain - for a policy of dealing with China which is both feasible and logical and stands a chance of being effective; many other nations are in a similar position.

But the dilemma is more acute and more urgent for Japan, and its politicians' ability to engage in spurious arguments as a sort of "displacement therapy" for dealing with realities is second to none.

One such irrelevant dispute is about the need to change Japan's post-war Constitution in order to remove restrictions on the country's use of military force. Mr. Abe has long argued that this is an essential part of Japan's renewed defense strategy, and the latest defense White Paper devotes an entire chapter to this topic, for the first time ever.

But as every decision-maker in Tokyo knows, no such constitutional amendment is likely, and none is required either.

For although Mr. Abe has the necessary parliamentary majority to start the amendment process, the Komeito party which is part of his coalition does not agree with him on what bits of the Constitution need changing. Nor do the majority of the Japanese public, many of whom are still attached to the "peaceful" provisions of their Constitution.

But although that does place some restrictions on the way Japan can dispatch its troops to help its allies in a future confrontation, the Constitution itself still allows the Japanese government plenty of scope to defend the nation.

The article also said Japan's salvation from its current security predicament lies in forging alliances with like-minded countries - not in order to contain China as such, but in order to increase the risk which Chinese decision-makers will have to face if they were to consider any showdown which upsets the regional strategic balance.

The Japanese have done rather well in this respect. They have strengthened their alliance with the United States, and expanded security links with India, Australia and many ASEAN nations. They have even improved security links with South Korea, partly because of Seoul's own disappointment with Chinese regional behavior, but also because of North Korea's continued belligerence.

Still, Japan's peculiar inability or unwillingness to settle historic disputes over the country's World War II record continues to plague its global coalition efforts.

There is no silver bullet to rip through the tangle of historic, political, legal and emotional disputes with China and South Korea over Japan's brutal colonial rule, its ghastly massacres or the exploitation of slave labor and the so-called "comfort women".

The article asked if it was really wise of Japan to appoint now a new defense minister who is not only famous for doubting the reality of these wartime episodes but also questions the legal basis of the international tribunal which in 1945 passed judgment on key Japanese war criminals?

The row over the new minister erupted last week on the very same day that a Japan-funded "comfort women" foundation was launched in South Korea in a bid to resolve the issue that has poisoned relations between the two nations for decades. Thus, another opportunity for reconciliation gave way to another day of rancor.

Yet despite all its defense white papers, Japan is some way off deciding what it can or should do about its security challenges. And Mr. Abe has yet to forge the necessary national agreement on this matter.

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