Table Speech

China’s War-Making Potential

June 18, 2014

Mr. Kazuhisa Ogawa
Project Professor, University of Shizuoka
Military Analyst

 Today, I will base my speech on the theme I have addressed in my latest publication China’s War-Making Potential. I regret to say the Japanese people do not excel in dealing with foreign diplomacy, security and crisis management. Japan has been surrounded and protected by the sea that has given us a favorable environment to foster splendid national identity as well as cultural prosperity. As we have encountered only few crises, with the US occupation forces being the first foreign occupation, we are not versed in foreign diplomacy, security and crisis management. Japanese people are highly competent in many fields and thus we tend to overestimate that we also excel in the aforementioned three areas. I must say the greatest crisis lies in us.

 Japan and China have no choice but to be neighbors. I hope our relationships will stabilize both in terms of security and economy so that Japanese companies can seek their legitimate interests. The Chinese Ambassador to Japan Cheng Yonghua puts it accurately that “security issues will become less weighty as our economic ties keep deepening.” I also believe one feels threatened only when one’s opponent becomes hostile and moves to exert its power.

 Talking about power, to keep modernizing one’s military power is a basic need to get a lead over one’s opponents. In the case of Japan, we must make good use of our alliance with the US. When it comes to feelings, we must fortify economic relations in a strategic manner to keep our counterpart from becoming hostile. Japan will become even stronger if we can overcome our shortcomings.

 Let me go over the recent military actions taken by China. The two radar lock incidents in January 2013 in the East China Sea can be analyzed not as “provocation” but as strategic actions taken under the control of China’s Central Military Commission. China knows too well the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force is highly sophisticated and thus, Japan will not retaliate to such small actions.

 China has had skirmishes with Vietnam in the South China Sea. Some worry that the situation in the East China Sea may escalate as well. Let me point out China takes different strategies against Japan and Vietnam, as getting into trouble with Japan and its ally the US can escalate into a worldwide war with the risk of international capital pulling out. On the other hand, China has a history of territorial disputes with Vietnam that were settled eventually through negotiations. Therefore the current skirmishes are likely to be settled with a very low chance of withdrawals of international capital.

 Unfortunately, not a few prominent business managers in Japan got so nervous when the Chinese vessels entered our territorial waters. This is again because we are not well-versed in diplomacy and security issues. The fly-bys of Chinese and Japanese military jets in May and June in the disputed airspace over the East China Sea received a lot of media coverage in Japan. I must say the Chinese Communist Party and its military have profited from such extensive real-time news coverage as they can fend off rising nationalistic sentiments in China.

 The Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) set by China in November 2013 best exemplifies the position of China on the Senkaku Islands. China used strong-arm tactics to make their ADIZ overlap with not only Japan’s ADIZ but also our territorial airspace over the Senkaku Islands, despite the fact that they lack the ability to control such extensive ADIZ in terms of radar detection capacity and fighter aircraft performance. What this means is that China intends to shelve the territorial dispute over the Senkaku Islands, while they want to leave the door open to engage in discussions with Japan and the US on the mechanism to reduce conflicts and improve crisis management. The Western Pacific Naval Symposium was held in this context with the purpose to enhance maritime security. I understand governmental officials in China also wish to hold the Japan-China summit talks and to engage in far-sighted dialogues. It is thus necessary to settle some outstanding issues at the working level to pave the way to a friendly meeting between the heads of state.

 Japan must conduct extensive research on how to take better advantage of the Japan-US alliance. Unfortunately, Japanese people have a limited knowledge on how far Japan is assisting the US military forces. We tend to think “we are guarded by the US in return for providing them with military bases.” The fact is Japan has the largest oil terminal of the US Department of Defense as well as enormous ammunition storage facilities. We are giving full support to the US forces that operate in areas as far as the Cape of Good Hope in the southern tip of Africa. The US cannot keep its leading role in the world without the support of Japan. Taking into account such background, you will not be surprised to know that the US Defense Secretary Panetta told Xi Jinpin that the US recognized the Senkaku Islands to be a matter of their national interest. President Obama also reminded China to understand the special relationships between the US and Japan.

 Japan allocates 4.7 trillion yen for its defense budget each year to maintain the Japan-US alliance. I believe it is highly cost-effective as some estimations indicate that it will cost us 20-23 trillion yen a year should we try to maintain the same level of security by ourselves. Unless we are willing to shoulder the heavy burden, we should strive to take better advantage of the Japan-US alliance.