The problems in the South China Sea have not received a lot of media coverage recently, but this story caught my eye, doubly so since it does not seem like any other publications are reporting it:
Britain is to team up with Japan to build a new aircraft missile to help defend the remote Senkaku islands from Chinese invasion.
After three years of research, British and Japanese ministers will meet in London next month to announce plans to develop and build a new air-to-air missile, according to leaks to a Japanese newspaper.
It will be the first time that Japan has embarked on such a project with a partner other than the US and will excite interest in the international defence industry as a new and potentially important player takes the field. It risks provoking alarm in Japan’s former colonies, South Korea and China, which are innately suspicious of its potential re-emergence as a military power. The planned weapon will incorporate a radar system developed by Mitsubishi Electric into the Meteor missile, manufactured by MBDA, a British, French and Italian company. After building and testing a prototype in Britain next year, the two governments will decide whether to manufacture and deploy the weapon on a large scale.
The short piece goes on to explain that when the project is complete, the missiles will be carried by Japan’s F-35 fighters.
The slow but steady rearmament of Japan’s military is one of the great unreported stories of the last five years. Japan had a pacifist constitution imposed on them after World War 2, but the efforts of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe have been changing that.
The article talks incorrectly about how “alarming” Japanese rearmament is to its neighbors. In fact, the reason Japan is reluctantly moving in the direction of abandoning its pacifist stance is due to increasing provocations from its more warlike neighbors. Japan cannot just sit idly by with China repeatedly asserting territorial claims to a piece of Japanese territory.
It isn’t just China that has been menacing Japan either. Kim Jong Un, North Korea’s odious dictator, has been threatening to attack Japan and regularly shoots missiles over the Japanese islands as well. Russia has also developed a habit of periodically threatening Japan as well, such as in this recent example of them “buzzing” Japan. The linked article notes that Russia has “buzzed” Japan several times this year already.
At this point, it’s probably worth noting that Japan has also been engaged in a long-running territorial dispute with the Russians for decades.
Finally, many readers will recall the shameful foreign policy conduct of the Obama administration. Obama famously conducted an “apology tour” during his presidency, making it clear that US allies could not rely on protection or support from the United States in the event of a crisis. When the US did intervene abroad, the results were typically disastrous, as Obama’s bungling caused the Syrian Civil War, the creation of ISIS, and the Syrian refugee crisis that is currently destabilizing the entire EU.
Taking all the above into consideration, can anyone blame the Japanese for getting nervous and looking to rearm while seeking new alliances? I am surprised that this did not happen sooner given the almost constant threats the Japanese receive from China and other hostile foreign powers. The Japanese also seem to understand they may not be able to rely on America to protect them during a crisis either, given how weak and disoriented the US must look to foreign observers.
The new missile project between Japan and Britain is yet another sign that the Japanese are getting serious about defending themselves from Chinese and North Korean aggression, and that Shinzo Abe is working very hard to find Japan some friends in an increasingly unfriendly and dangerous world.