Japan's new role in East Asia | Latest news The Moscow Post
29 November 2023

Japan's new role in East Asia

Today, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida begins a visit to the Philippines. The content of the upcoming negotiations is related to regional security issues.

Washington and Tokyo are stepping up military cooperation with Manila. In June 2023, negotiations between the defense ministers of the three countries took place. In July, the first meeting of the heads of the foreign affairs agencies of the United States, the Philippines and Japan was held. In August, a joint exercise of their border services was held in the South China Sea with the participation of Australia's watchmen. In July, the Philippine Navy as an observer took part in the exercises of the naval forces of Japan, the United States and Australia, the correspondent of The Moscow Post reports.

Under the Indo-Pacific Strategy, Kisida should lay the foundation for a security treaty with the Philippines. He and Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. are expected to agree on the prompt delivery of troops and equipment to the territory of the Philippines, outline plans for joint exercises of the Self-Defense Forces of Japan and the Philippine Armed Forces.

All this, not without targeted influence from the United States, is happening near Taiwan and mainland China.

US strides ahead

Formally, all the above-mentioned countries recognize Taiwan as the territory of China, but, as they say, there are nuances. The main thing is that Washington is preparing the island for the "Chinese invasion" and setting up its regional satellites and the authorities of Taipei itself in this way. Therefore, the countries included in the American regional security network are united by the idea of ​ ​ countering the PRC.

The Philippines, along with Japan, is in this context the most "priority" of all countries in the region cooperating with the United States. Manila provides or can locate bases, provide logistics and guarantee strategic depth for US and allied forces in the region next door to the PRC.

The strategy of the American military is to disperse units across the islands of the so-called first line connecting Okinawa with Taiwan and the Philippines. A developed transport network for reliable supplies in this direction will be important.

Thus, Kisida will become a kind of envoy to US President Joe Biden to promote this strategy with the help of the Philippines. He will also be the first Japanese prime minister to address the Philippine Congress outlining the objectives of Japanese diplomacy in Southeast Asia.

New configuration, members are the same

History repeats itself not only in the western regions of Russia, where German tanks are burning again. Something similar is happening in the Philippines, where in May 1942, on the island of Corregidor, the Japanese accepted the surrender of the main forces of the US-Philippine army. Japan is coming back today.

True, the arrangement and layout of forces has changed. Now, Tokyo and Washington are working together. Japan is the main US ally in East Asia, and China has become the direction of the "main strike" for the allies.

At the talks in Manila, Kishida and Marcos Jr. will discuss what can be done as part of Japan's Official Security Assistance, a new program to provide defense equipment to like-minded partners for free. Tokyo chose the Philippines as well as Malaysia, Bangladesh and Fiji as recipients of such aid.

In particular, Tokyo will donate patrol boats and radars to the Philippines to patrol the exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea, part of which Beijing claims. Chief of Staff of the Philippine Armed Forces Romeo Brauner said that the issue of transferring aircraft will also be considered. All this will begin a new Japanese program of preferential supply of weapons to friendly countries.

Tokyo confidently follows the road laid by the Pentagon. In the first half of October, north of Luzon Island, the U.S. and Philippines conducted a two-week naval exercise dubbed "Samasama," meaning "together" in Tagalog. The exercise was aimed at strengthening the naval capabilities of the Philippines.

There are many islands, but there are not enough for everyone

In November, US and Philippine ground forces plan to conduct amphibious exercises simulating the capture of a "remote island." It is clear that Taiwan is in the foreground in this whole venture, but there are other tasks. Washington accuses Beijing of "expansionism" in the East China and South China Seas region.

In particular, there is a territorial dispute between China and Japan over uninhabited islands in the East China Sea. The dispute over Diaoyu (Senkaku) escalated after Tokyo announced their buyout from private Japanese owners in September 2012. Since then, Chinese ships have been cruising near the archipelago and demonstratively enter the coastal zone.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbing said that the entry of Japanese ships into the waters of the Diaoyu Islands (Senkaku) is a disregard for China's sovereignty. Tokyo, for its part, does not recognize Beijing's claims to most of the South China Sea.

The Philippines, too, is in conflict with the PRC over land and water rights in the area. Recently, tensions have risen in disputed areas of the South China Sea. So, on October 22, a Chinese watchman collided with a Filipino ship delivering supplies to a garrison on one of the islands in the area of ​ ​ the Spratly archipelago.

Also, a Philippine patrol ship illegally entered the waters adjacent to Huangyan Island (Scarborough Reef) in the South China Sea. In August, a Chinese Coast Guard ship used water cannons while maneuvering dangerously close to Philippine ships escorting cargo for Filipino troops stationed on the Ayungin Shoal, which Beijing considers its territory.

Over the past decades, the PRC has been in dispute with Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines and Brunei over the territorial affiliation of several groups of islands in the South China Sea, on the shelf of which hydrocarbon reserves were discovered.

We are talking, first of all, about the Paracel Islands (Xisha), the Spratly archipelago (Nansha) and Huangyan. Since the end of 2013, the PRC has carried out large-scale work to create artificial islands in the disputed water area, which it considers native Chinese. This activity causes discontent among a number of countries in the region.

But there is a political dialogue between them. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations and China are successfully promoting regional cooperation, including on the development of a Code of Conduct for Parties in the South China Sea, said Vietnamese National Defense Minister Army General Fang Wang Ziang, speaking in Beijing at the X Xiangshan Security Forum.

In this regional dialogue, according to Beijing, there should simply be no place for countries outside the region. The United States does not agree with this, is pulling ASEAN and Japan into the region.

Japan's key role

Japan will play a "key" role in any Indo-Pacific emergency, whether it affects Taiwan or not, said Gen. Mark Milley, the former chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The Japanese Self-Defense Forces "combat-ready regional military forces compatible with the US military," Milli added. "It will depend on the political leadership of Japan and the political leader of the United States whether each of our countries will defend Taiwan," the general added.

Millie also observed that multipurpose task forces would be an effective response to the Chinese military presence in the East China Sea, South China Sea and other areas. "We want these precision fire groups, these multipurpose task forces, to be able to operate from various land-based locations over long distances," the general said, comparing land bases to unsinkable aircraft carriers.

Indeed, the Japanese Self-Defense Forces are legally becoming a full-fledged army capable of advancing, this is "a gross violation of the results of World War II," said Nikolai Patrushev, secretary of the Russian Security Council, in an interview.

History repeats itself!

Photo: Kommersant

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