Why Is the U.S. Rehearsing for a Chinese Invasion of Japan?

Discussion in 'Indo Pacific & East Asia' started by ajtr, Sep 25, 2010.

  1. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

    Oct 2, 2009
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    Why Is the U.S. Rehearsing for a Chinese Invasion of Japan?

    When the U.S. Navy's 60,000-strong Seventh Fleet joined with the Japanese military last month to simulate "re-invading" part of Japan that had been taken by an outside force, the hypothetical invader went un-named for reasons of diplomatic decorum. But that didn't stop a senior Japanese military official from boasting to a national newspaper, "We'll show China that Japan has the will and the capability to defend the Nansei Islands. [The exercises] will serve as a deterrent." Even if he had said nothing, everyone involved understood that the U.S. and Japan were rehearsing a counter-attack against a possible Chinese invasion of Japan. Since then, an unrelated and seemingly minor dispute over a Chinese trawler captain arrested in Japanese waters has spiraled into a heated, ongoing standoff between leaders of both nations. Japan refuses the release the fisherman, despite China suspending all relations between its officials and Japan's--often a prelude to war--and threatening "strong countermeasures." Is China's invasion of Japan nigh? Is it only a matter of time?

    "No one's worried about China invading Japan," Abe Denmark, an expert with the Center for New American Security on U.S. security policy in East Asia, assured me. "This is about a long-standing disagreement between China and Japan that flares up occassionally. And it's flared up recently." In other words, this kind of tension is more or less routine for Sino-Japanese relations, and it's not leading to war anytime soon. But China's increasingly aggressive foreign policy and the volatility of China's relationship with Japan--not to mention with the rest of its East Asia neighbors--is a very real concern for the U.S. The recent U.S.-Japan military exercises were just one part of a concerted effort to entrench U.S. military influence in East Asia and bring long-term stability to a rapidly changing and often contentious part of the world. Someday in the future, our influence abroad, and in East Asia especially, will wane. The Obama administration wants to guide East Asian politics in a direction that will be most beneficial to long-term American interests.

    The more time that the U.S. spends working with foreign militaries such as Japan's, the more those militaries, and thus the nation they represent, institutionalize dependence on the U.S. Japan is willing to go along with this because it sends a message to potential enemies--especially China--that an attack on Japan would also be an attack on the U.S. Regular U.S.-South Korea joint military exercises, most recently in July, have the same effect. The exercises strengthen communication and coordination between our military and theirs, making us better partners should war arrive and increasing the deterrence effect. They also help justify our enormous military presence on their soil--something that has been politically controversial in Japan. And they reinforce a tradition of cooperation in which the people and politicians of Japan, South Korea, etc., see the U.S.--not China--as their natural, cultural ally. That kind of trust can last a long time.

    Trust and cooperation are hard to find among the nations of East Asia, which never quite established a European-style practice of collectivity. Nowhere is the inability to resolve minor disputes--and the frightening potential for those skirmishes to escalate uncontrollably--more apparent than across the region's countless tiny islands. To put it simply, no one knows whom they belong to but everybody wants them. As China and Southeast Asia industrialize, islands and their resources are becoming more desirable. "A lot of this is a remnant from periods of instability in East Asia's past," Denmark told me. "Over the years, different countries have controlled different islands." Competing claims have led to many inflammatory incidents such as Japan's arrest of the Chinese fisherman and naval skirmishes between China and Thailand. There are a handful of ways to determine ownership, but some of them are contradictory, and political leaders often have more faith in military confrontation than lobbying the United Nations.

    Enter Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who in July worked hard to peacefully resolve an island dispute between China and Thailand. The U.S. interest here is four-fold: establish a mechanism for peaceful conflict resolution, so that war is less likely; build precedent for the rule of international law, so that China can't simply use its navy to bully its neighbors; keep the U.S. involved in East Asian politics so we aren't shut out; and prevent China from dominating the South China Sea. The oil-rich sea lane has become a strategically crucial link from East Asia to the Indian subcontinent, the Middle East, Africa, and beyond. Those connections are rapidly becoming some of the most important and most heavily trafficked trade routes of the global economy. Whoever controls the South China Sea will also control the ability of navies--whether Chinese, American, Indian, or NATO--to project force across the Eastern and Western hemispheres.

    But why should all of this matter so much to the U.S.? After all, our military is many times stronger than China's and we still control most of the Earth's seas and skies. The word that many scholars use when talking about long-term U.S.-Sino relations is "multi-polar," which reflects the growing belief that China will one day join the U.S. as the world's second superpower, fundamentally reshaping a world currently defined by American dominance. The question isn't will China rise, it's what happens when it does. If we simply let current trends continue, it's entirely foreseeable that China could cajole, persuade, or bully the rest of East Asia under its influence. The U.S. can handle Chinese competition, but a unified East Asia could undermine the U.S. in any number of ways. Limiting our freedom of movement in the Pacific and Indian oceans would only be the beginning.

    Another risk of inaction could be regional war. As China expresses more dominance over its neighbors, if regional diplomatic institutions remain too weak to ensure peaceful conflict resolution, it's possible that China could come to blows with states such as Thailand or, yes, Japan. War is always terrible, but the modern military conflicts of East Asia have been especially brutal, costly, and destabilizing. If a regional war broke out, the U.S. would have nothing but bad options--enter into war against China? cut off economic ties? sit it out and watch the rest of Asia cower to Chinese dominance?--all of which would spell disaster for long-term American interests.

    There's little question that China will eventually join us as a world superpower. Rather than fighting the inevitable or pretending it isn't so, Clinton's State Department is laying the groundwork for a mutlipolar world that is as beneficial and acceptable to the U.S. as possible. That includes reinforcing East Asian multilateral institutions, rehearsing regional avenues of conflict resolution, and entrenching U.S. military cooperation with China's neighbors. Strange though it may seem, sometimes the best way to promote peace is by practicing war.

    Image: U.S, Thai, and South Korean marines pose for a photo during joint military exercises in Thailand. The annual war games, Cobra Gold 2010, involve 14,000 military personnel from six nations: the U.S., Japan, Thailand, South Korea, Singapore, and Indonesia. Can you spot who's missing? Photo by Pornchai Kittiwongsakul/AFP/Getty.
  3. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

    Oct 2, 2009
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    China – Japan strife spotlights a strategic U.S. vulnerability

    By Ed Flanagan, NBC News
    BEIJING – The recent political standoff between China and Japan thrust so-called rare earth minerals – critical to the manufacture of 21st century technology like cell phones and digital cameras to high-tech weaponry – into the limelight as a national security concern for the United States.
    Stemming from a dispute over a Chinese fishing boat captain held by Japan, China, which controls 97 percent of processing of the world’s rare earth minerals, reportedly blocked their export to Japan.
    The claim was quickly denied by Beijing, but the mere suggestion that China was willing or capable of such an embargo sent shockwaves through U.S. businesses, economic planners and Pentagon strategists.
    That’s because a similar embargo against the United States could seriously threaten America’s ability to source elements used in the manufacture of everything from hybrid car engines to the precision laser-guided smart bombs used by the military.
    An April 2010 Government Accountability Office study put the shift to Chinese dominance in the rare earth minerals market in stark terms: “The United States previously performed all stages of the rare earth material supply chain, but now most rare earth materials processing is performed in China, giving it a dominant position that could affect worldwide supply and prices.”
    The report spells out the consequences of China’s near monopoly of the supply of rare earth minerals, but also notes that rebuilding a U.S. rare earth supply chain could take as long as 15 years and would require “securing capital investments in processing infrastructure, developing new technologies, and acquiring patents, which are currently held by international companies.”
    The embarrassing revelation that critical parts for top American military weapon systems such as General Dynamics’s M1A2 Abrams tank and Lockheed Martin’s Aegis SPY-1 radar brought about a call for congressional hearings on the issue, but it could be decades before an American supply chain for rare earth materials is rebuilt.
    Change of dominance
    The United States was not always so dependent on other countries for its mineral needs.
    During the post-World War II era, as the need for uranium for atomic weapons to compete in the Cold War arms race grew, a rush of mineral prospecting took place throughout the southwest United States.
    The discovery of sizable deposits of rare earth minerals, like flourocarbonate bastnaesite in the U.S. during the 1940s, proved to be of little use for uranium enrichment for bombs. But an element derived from bastnaesite, europium, was found to be essential for the production of the cathode ray tubes required for early color televisions.
    With that, the industry exploded in the United States as major mineral companies like Molycorp Minerals took the lead in the extraction and trade of rare earth metals. Other American conglomerates – notably General Motors, General Dynamics and Lockheed Martin Corp – quickly developed new uses for the metals, among them sophisticated new lasers, night-vision goggles and improved radar.
    Despite a wealth of rare earth minerals in the U.S., the manufacture of the minerals has become dominated by China.
    In an intriguing report written earlier this year for the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security, researchers looked into the 1995 sale of Magnequench. The company was formed in 1986 by GM to manufacture neodymium-iron-boron magnets – powerful magnets that are used in everything from car engines to electrical power steering.
    In 1995, two Chinese companies, likely seeing the potential military application of the product and catching GM as it was attempting to break into the Chinese market, acquired Magnequench for $70 million. The sale was approved by the U.S. government with the stipulation that the buyers keep the company in its hometown of Anderson, Indiana for five years.
    The day after that deal expired in 2002, the Chinese company shut down the entire operation, shipped all its manufacturing equipment and resumed operations in China.
    The research report noted, “In less than one decade, the permanent magnet market experienced a complete shift in leadership.”
    The Magnequench sale represented a titanic shift in the competitive advantage of the United States and set the scene for the loss of America’s manufacturing dominance in the rare earth mineral industry.
  4. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

    Oct 2, 2009
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    Has China realized it overplayed its foreign policy hand?

    Posted By Josh Rogin Friday, September 24, 2010 - 11:40 PM Share

    The Chinese government is secretly reaching out to the Obama administration with the message that they want to improve strained U.S.-China relations ahead of President Hu Jintao's visit to Washington next January.

    White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs confirmed Thursday that the Chinese Communist Party leader will make a state visit to Washington to hold a summit with President Obama in January, although no specific date has been set. Hu and Obama met Thursday on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in New York, amid increasing regional angst at what the Obama administration and several East Asian countries see as China's increasingly aggressive and arrogant foreign policy.

    Recently, the Chinese have been sending out "Track 2" messages, or informal communiqués, to the United States, indicating that they now want to restart military-to-military relations, which were established in 2009 but cut off by Beijing earlier this year, an administration official told The Cable. In response, the administration is dispatching an interagency team led by Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Michael Schiffer to Beijing next week to meet with Chinese officials.

    The Obama administration does not want the military relationship between the two countries to become a bargaining chip that the Chinese can use to voice their displeasure with U.S. policy. Their argument is that military cooperation is in both countries' interests -- not a reward. If China agrees to restart cooperation without any direct incentives, that's a win for the Obama team.

    "From our perspective we believe a stable and reliable mil to mil relationship is in the interests of both countries," the official said. "We want something that is continuous through times of friction, with crisis management mechanisms to avoid conflict. The lack of consistent dialogue increases the risks of miscalculation or misunderstanding."

    There are several recent actions by the Chinese that have alienated their neighbors. In addition to trying to assert control over the South China Sea, a move that angered Southeast Asian leaders, Beijing also ruined its relationship with South Korea by supporting North Korea after the sinking of the South Korean ship Cheonan.

    This month, China took retaliatory measures against Japan after Tokyo arrested a Chinese boat captain for ramming his ship against Japanese Coast Guard boats near the disputed Senkaku Islands. This is another example of what many see as Beijing overplaying its hand and taking its new international confidence too far.

    "This sort of behavior by the Chinese is not exactly winning hearts and minds in the region. You can have a policy difference without engaging in dangerous behavior," the official said.

    The Obama administration has made a deliberate and calculated shift in its approach to China over the last few months, deciding to resist more forcefully Chinese efforts to expand their influence and control over regional issues, and to coordinate their China policy more closely with regional allies and partners.

    The first public display of this new approach surfaced when Defense Secretary Robert Gates lambasted the Chinese People's Liberation Army for cutting off military to military relations during his trip to Singapore in May.

    "The PLA is significantly less interested in this relationship than the political leadership of China," Gates said after being refused permission to visit China as part of that trip.

    The second major public display of the Obama administration's new approach was when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton shocked the Chinese leadership by announcing that the United States would lead a multilateral effort to resist Chinese claims of ownership of the South China Sea. Several Southeast Asian nations rose up in support of the U.S. action.

    "The Obama administration's approach to the South China Sea was a very important and well-crafted response to Chinese assertiveness. Such strength is a vital element of our China strategy, and sends a message to Beijing that the United States will protect its interests," said Abe Denmark, senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security.

    China watchers see Beijing's secret outreach to Washington as a realization that they overplayed their hand and are now trying to do some damage control.

    "There was that period toward the end of last year and the beginning of this year when the popular thinking in China was that the U.S. had run its course and China had more leverage and so can push their agenda a bit. Now there's a move to tamp down the Chinese sense of triumphalism," said Charles Freeman Jr., who holds the Freeman Chair (no relation) for China studies at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

    Freeman sees the administration's shift as not really a change in policy so much as a change in attitude.

    "[The Obama administration] has less interest in sucking up and showing deference to China, because that didn't work, but there's been no official shift in policy. It's just that they're a little fed up with the arrogance," he said.

    Not all China hands are convinced that Beijing is ready to play nice, especially in light of the ongoing spat with Japan, in which Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Michael Mullen has committed the United States to support Tokyo.

    "After this latest case with Japan, they haven't learned very much," said Dan Blumenthal, a former Pentagon official who worked on China policy and is now with the American Enterprise Institute. "I don't think there's a realization in China that they've overplayed their hand. They're causing all the countries around the region to fear them and want more involvement by the U.S."

    Many analysts see China's aggressiveness as an indication that the PLA is gaining influence inside the Chinese system in the run up to a 2012 leadership transition. The Washington Post reported Friday on the various tensions pulling and pushing policy within the sprawling Beijing bureaucracy.

    The one thing the administration, panda huggers, and China hawks can all agree on is that nobody really knows what Chinese intentions are regarding the United States and what exactly this latest outreach will mean.

    "Schiffer and others have to go over there and figure out if this is just another attempt at warm and fuzzies or if there's something real there," Freeman said.

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