Monday, December 13, 2010

Kan maybe not so unrealistic

PM Kan has been reported to suggest that the SDF would go to Korea in case of war. This has been judged to be unrealistic by some in the ROK. It certainly might cause problems for an untested force that has never participated* in exercises with the US/Korea forces (not ground combat anyway), and with no known (at least not widely known) planning for such actions with South Korea or the US. Then one would have to wonder just what the SDF could do that the ROK could not do about 10 zillion times better in a war in Korea. And how would the SDF know where the abducted Japanese are in North Korea? Would it be involved in the war only to protect Japanese? "Oh, a nearby ROK unit is is isolated, outnumbered, and needs immediate assistance. Sorry, we are only here for self-defense and that means Japanese citizens. Gomen ne. Gambatte!"

Of course there just might be some small possibility of a slight objection to Japanese military forces in Korea by the Koreans and Chinese even though they could be reassured by explaining that the SDF is not really a military as Japan is prohibited from having a military by its constitution.

So I thought, but then Martin Fackler wrote this article for the New York Times: Japan to Shift its Military Toward Threats from China

... Japan’s new Democratic Party government has been pulling closer to Washington, spurred by a bruising diplomatic clash three months ago with China over the disputed islands and fears about North Korea’s nuclear program.

.... Washington has proposed forging stronger three-way military ties that would also include its other key regional ally, South Korea...

...During a visit to the region last week, Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, urged Japan to join American military exercises with South Korea. In a meeting with Japan’s defense minister, Toshimi Kitazawa, Admiral Mullen said the two nations needed to support South Korea after North Korea’s deadly shelling last month of a South Korean island...

Fackler also vaguely notes that the ROK vice minister of defense visited Tokyo last week to discuss "increased bilateral cooperation" with his Japanese counterpart.

*Or if it did, it was kept very much under wraps, so much so that most US military never knew it. In other words, nearly impossible.


  1. The change in attitude of the ROK government overall since the recent shelling has been interesting. But the Korean people as you allude to obviously will have a different view on this.

    Kan earlier on in the year suggested that Japan take up more security roles with ROK but I think he became a little bit taken aback with the ROK actually seeming to say recently "Ok, we are kinda listening, now." Now the Japanese govt itself is the one saying that "this is all a delicate matter now, let's not get ahead of ourselves, ya know, the Korean people might have problems with this...."

    Nevertheless, I imagine that this is one of these typical stepping stone aspects of Japanese security policy (also called salami slicing by some) - you identify a small niche, almost nominal area of contribution, negotiate the expansion of roles around that, and then that sets the stage for another gradual expansion. I imagine this could for example, if ever implemented, pave the way for Japanese SDF to help deal with humanitarian/refugee fallout on the peninsula and thus leave more of the US/SK forces to do the actual fighting to speak, which they are likely to be better at. It has kind of been what Japan has been doing with its PKO operations since 1992. This of course, assumes the DPRK doesn't fall over tomorrow, of course....

  2. Not that I would know, but that sounds likely to me.

    I notice that Chosunilbo, after calling Kan's remarks "a serious blunder," acknowledges that they were not likely just a slip of the tongue:

  3. Anything Kan does these days feel like a serious blunder to be sure... :-)

    I wonder if push comes to shove (and if NK falls over there is likely to be a lot of both) whether the SK would still feel the same way - it would be fitting if Japan could play even some sort of small role in reunification, considering it was their colonial rule that undermined the unity of the peninsula in the first place. I still marvel that the PRC govt was even mildly open to the prospect of the ASDF being allowed in China in the aftermath of the Sichuan earthquake.

    Then again, I often find SK-Japan relations in some ways much harder to fathom than Sino-Japan relations.