Japan runs ahead of steam locomotive
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that Europe has chosen the path of war, but it will still have to live with them "side by side." Next in line is Japan, it is also next to Russia. Following the United States, Tokyo hastily moves away from its neighbors. "Runs ahead of the steam locomotive," as a senior Russian diplomat called this behavior.
The Japanese political elite, like the European one, is burning bridges of dialogue with Russia and China, supporting American hosts. At the same time, Tokyo is concerned about joint patrolling by aircraft of the Russian Aerospace Forces and the Air Force of the People's Liberation Army of the PRC in the waters of the Japanese and East China Seas. Subgeneracy in the material of the correspondent of The Moscow Post.
For such prevention in the Northeast Asia region (IAA), Japan's neighbors have reason. These are, first of all, the actions of the US military off the coast of Russia and China, as well as the growing activity of other countries of the North Atlantic Alliance in the Asia-Pacific region (APR).
Japan itself, like Germany, did not pass the "pacifism" test and is close to getting the "samurai blade" out of the sheath, despite constitutional restrictions. As a "global partner" of the United States and NATO, the Japanese are preparing a program for the development of ties with the North Atlantic Alliance. They say that they are establishing this cooperation with an eye on China and Russia, calling the strategic rapprochement between Moscow and Beijing "extremely undesirable."
On the Same Wave with NATO
The Anglo-Saxons, as strategic mentors, help Japan free itself from the conventions imposed by the Constitution. London, after breaking with the European Union, personally takes care of Tokyo and prompts how to get behind self-restrictions on security issues. Japan is in dialogue with Germany on economic security with an eye toward China, the main competitor.
The updated national security strategy of Japan, adopted in December 2022, involves the largest military build-up of the country since World War II, writes Reuters. In the next five years, Japan will allocate about $320 billion to strengthen its defense potential, despite the fact that in 2022 its public debt exceeded 264% of GDP.
The updated security strategy sees China as "the main strategic challenge," Russia as a country of "concern." Tokyo faces "the worst and most difficult security situation" since World War II, Kyodo agency complains. The Kommersant newspaper is ironic that Japan is "peacefully arming itself" and will become the third country in military spending after the United States and China.
At the NATO summit in Lithuania in July, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kisida will set out his position on Ukraine and propose to discuss issues of cyber defense and new technologies. The NATO-Japan partnership involves the interaction of alliance forces and Japanese self-defense forces.
NATO is expected to open a representative office in Tokyo. In April, Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi was invited to a meeting of four countries of the "square" of the countries of the Indo-Pacific region, as well as a meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Brussels. Fumio Kisida in June 2022 took part in the NATO summit in Madrid for the first time. As they say, "on the same wave," but formally not yet in the same boat.
Runs ahead of the engine...
According to Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Rudenko, the Japanese government "actually solidified with the US line to isolate Russia," and sometimes it seems that Tokyo is "running ahead of the steam locomotive."
The attention of neighboring countries with Japan cannot but attract the fact that one of the largest economies of the "golden millard" is sharply changing its strategy. Advanced technologically, but devoid of sovereignty, extremely vulnerable and completely dependent on everything from crustal movements to energy sources.
Indeed, Japan seems ready to forget its immediate interests, which in the post-war years provided economic diplomacy as part of the comprehensive security strategy.
Japan's economic interdependence with neighboring countries is also high. Japan itself diligently built these relations. With China, it is united by large-scale trade and investment ties. This is the main trading partner and Japanese exports to the PRC grew from $22.5 billion in 1995 to $153 billion in 2021. China's exports to Japan have grown over the years from $32.5 billion to $168 billion.
In the Russian direction, the volume of trade is an order of magnitude less. Trade with Russia in the 2022 calendar year increased, despite the sanctions, by 6.2% to 2.56 trillion yen (about $20 billion). Tokyo approved a list of five hundred items banned from export to Russia, including semiconductors, communications, software, oil refining equipment, cargo equipment, processing machines, etc.
But the cost of Russian energy imports to Japan increased by 40.1% over the year, which offset the decline in trade in other areas. Imports from the Russian Federation increased by 26.2%, to 1.95 trillion yen (about $15.2 billion), more than 68% of this amount fell on energy resources. Imports of Russian coal decreased by 41.3% in volume, but increased by 61.7% in value. Imports of Russian oil, which Japan initially refused, fell by 56.4% in volume, but in value terms decreased by 32.4%.
… only LNG does not allow
Tokyo, unlike Berlin, did not want to abandon Sakhalin oil and gas projects. Russia agreed, and Japan asked the G7 for exceptions to the "ceiling" regime for oil prices of the Sakhalin-2 project. Earlier this year, after a nine-month hiatus, imports of Sakhalin oil resumed.
But liquefied natural gas (LNG) remains a priority product. During the same period, LNG imports increased by 4.6% in terms of volumes, and increased by 82.4% in terms of value. The Sakhalin-2 project provides 9.5% of the consumption of this type of fuel (7 million tons), which provides about 3% of the country's generation.
In addition to Sakhalin projects, Japan discussed two or three more LNG projects with Gazprom but this is in the past. The initiative was seized by Novatek, which in 2019 sold a 10% stake in the Arctic LNG-2 project to a consortium of Mitsui and JOGMEC. On a long-term basis, they will annually acquire about 2 million tons of LNG from the plant, which will bring the share of Russian LNG in Japanese imports of this fuel to 11-12%.
So it was called by Ivan Timofeev, indicating that Japan for a long time was under the umbrella of a security treaty with the United States, its self-defense forces did not have autonomy and, as it were, did not have incentives for military construction. Although this can be argued if we consider that the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force (MSDF) ranks third to fourth in the world in terms of the number and technological equipment of surface ships and submarines. The position of the Japanese fleet strengthens its close integration with the forces of the US Navy in the Asia-Pacific region.
A nationalism-awakened Japanese society is "waking up" under new geopolitical conditions. Tokyo has always been sensitive to energy security issues. Everything depended on supplying the country with energy raw materials - from the pace of motorization of the country to solving social problems and meeting the needs of industry, small and medium-sized businesses. Energy security has been a factor in Japan's rise to the level of leading economies. But everything is changing, the growing China has become a priority.
Tokyo's attention to Sakhalin projects may be a respite before severing ties with Russia in this area. In April, the country's Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi presented to parliament the "Blue Book on Diplomacy-2023," which stated that Japan did not intend to remove or muffle the issue of "northern territories." Amid sanctions and Western confrontation with Russia, relations between Tokyo and Moscow are likely to remain cold.
Relations with China continue to deteriorate. Beijing is extremely wary, in particular, due to Japan's pro-Western position on the Taiwan Strait and the South China Sea, islands (Senkaku - Japanese, Diaoyu - Chinese) in the East China Sea, Tokyo's decisions to build up its military capabilities in alliance with the United States and NATO, including participation in QUAD and, possibly, in AA UKUS.
Japan, in turn, is wary of the economic, political and military strengthening of China, as well as the partnership between the Russian Federation and the PRC. Irritation and fear is caused by the DPRK's nuclear missile program, missile launches, nuclear tests.
Expose the "samurai blade"?
The sword in Japanese samurai gear is said not to have been the primary weapon. The main ones on the battlefield were the bow and arrows. The sword was taken out of the sheath when the arrows ended and close combat was coming. How the memory of this can affect the nature and scope of Japan's rearmament is still difficult to say.
North Korea's quasi-nuclear status haunts Japanese politicians and the media. Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe spoke in favor of starting a discussion about the possible deployment of US nuclear weapons on the same terms under which they are deployed in European NATO countries.
Columnist Yoshiaki Yano, writing in JB Press, argues that the US is inferior to Russia and China in the field of nuclear weapons and is unlikely to stand up for Japan. Therefore, Tokyo should acquire its own "nuclear umbrella." Japan could join the club of nuclear powers within five years, former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger suggested in an interview with The Economist.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, in contrast, proposing the Hiroshima Plan of Action, spoke of a "world without nuclear weapons." Japan, he believes, can "send a powerful signal to the planet" in the field of nuclear disarmament. He presented this plan during the review conference of the countries participating in the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) as a first step towards a nuclear-free world, the website of his office reports.
The irony is that in the 78 years since the bombing of Hiroshima (August 6) and Nagasaki (August 9), no American president has bothered to apologize to Japan. Joe Biden, visiting this year's Peace Memorial Park, didn't, either. And Japanese schools avoid mentioning that they were American bombs.