US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced on April 6, 2014 to send two more destroyers with defense system against ballistic missiles (Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System) to Japan in order to counter North Korea’s missile threat and deter China. Seven US warships with the Aegis-System will then be stationed in Japan. In addition, America dispatches long-range surveillance drones to Japan to strengthen surveillance around the disputed Senkaku island.[1] Hagel also reaffirmed the US commitment to defend Japan against the military aggressions of China. America already informed that it would not send a warship to China’s naval parade held at the end of April to show solidarity with Japan because Japan was not invited for this naval parade.[2]

North Korea launched two ballistic missiles into the Japanese sea to show its disapproval of the meeting between the South Korean president, the US president and Japan’s prime minister in the Hague on March 25, 2014.[3] Japan is planning to hold high-level talks with North Korea to discuss the issue of North Korean abducted Japanese citizens. It was reported that North Korea might be trying to draw America and China’s attention by drawing nearer to Japan since North Korea feels isolated from both. Contacts between North Korea and Japan have instilled fear in South Korea because the South Korean government won its popularity with the slogan of unifying the divided Korean peninsula. Hence, North Korea’s contacting Japan is not preferable to South Korea.[4] Both Russia and Japan have started to improve their tenuous relationship, first focusing on economic relations. The Russian president Putin is planning to visit Japan in the fall 2014, a visit uncertain after the Crimea issue.

Russia’s interest to sell its energy makes Asia very attractive, while some EU countries might seriously reconsider to diversify energy suppliers in order to reduce their dependence on Russia. TodayAsian market has an enormous potential. India and the ASEAN nations, for instance, are composed of young generations. China, South Korea and Japan are going to face severe demographic changes, but China is still growing. Continuous increase of Asian energy consumption is without any doubts.

Deterring China’s growing power, the Asian nations, especially Japan, might desire dissipating China’s military powers and therewith burden China’s budget. Therefore, between China and Russia some tensions might desirably remain; as a result, China had to concentrate on two frontlines. This is of course from Japan’s point of view.

Since a nation cannot change geopolitical its neighbors, a nation should consider both its own and its neighbors national interests. The US has tried to strengthen sanctions against Russia due to the Ukraine issue, but it might not be wise for Japan to jeopardize the relationship with Russia. US politics concerning China is not clear at all, and further negative financial influences on US military strength cannot be ruled out. The American possibility of coming closer to China might also not be excluded at all as history shows. Thus, Japan could take advantage of this situation to enhance its defense power and also make efforts to establish a solid relationship with Russia.

 

About author:

Kumiko Ahr-Okutomo

Born in Japan.

She wrote her doctoral thesis, supervised by Professor Albert A. Stahel (Strategic Studies) at the University of Zurich, about power shifts in East Asia and Japan’s security politics. She is now a research associate at the Institute of Strategic Studies of Professor Stahel.


[1] The Guardian: Chuck Hagel says US will send two Ballistic missile destroyers to Japan, April 6, 2014. [accessed April 6, 2014] www.theguardian.com/world/2014/apr/06/chuck-hagel-us-send-missile-destroyers-japan-north-korean-threat

[2] The Guardian: Chuck reaffirms US ‘strong commitment’ to protect japan, April 5, 2014. [accessed April 6, 2014] www.theguardian.com/world/2014/apr/05/chuck-hagel-us-commitment-japan-visit-china

[3] Reuters: Obama brokers Japan, South Korea talks as Pyongyang fires missiles, March 27, 2014. [accessed March 26, 2014] www.reuters.com/article/2014/03/26/us-north-korea-missiles-idUSBREA2O1XM20140326

[4] Sankei News: Abe Shushou no dengeki houchou wo honki de shinpaisuru Kankoku Park Geun-hye seiken (The South Korean Park Geun-hye’s government seriously worries about Abe’s spontaneous visit to North Korea), March 21, 2014. sankei.jp.msn.com/world/news/140320/kor14032015310001-n4.htm