Monday, July 23, 2007

A Stronger Japan: Some Like It, Some Don't

Norimitsu Onishi reports in the New York Times today that Japan is buying weapons that blur the lines between defensive and offensive use:

Japan is acquiring weapons that blur the lines between defensive and offensive. For the Guam bombing run, Japan deployed its newest fighter jets, the F-2’s, the first developed jointly by Japan and the United States, on their maiden trip here. Unlike its older jets, the F-2’s were able to fly the 1,700 miles from northern Japan to Guam without refueling — a “straight shot,” as the Japanese said with unconcealed pride.

The summary of Onishi's article titled "Bomb by Bomb, Japan Sheds Military Restraints" mentions that this change in Japan is "rattling nerves in northeast Asia." Although Onishi only sites two top Korean officials to back up the assertion, the claim is probably true, given South Korea's suspicion of the Japanese military, North Korea's outright hostility toward Japan, and China's rivalry for regional dominance.

But what about Southeast Asia?

I wonder why the article didn't mention the other side of the coin, that in Southeast Asia, many welcome a stronger Japan to balance China. In my trip to Asia this summer, I found senior observers in the Philippines, Indonesia, and Singapore not only in support of a more assertive Japan but also in favor of a stronger Japanese military. Many see Japan as a transparent, accountable actor with a good track record.

I guess the answer you get depends on whom you ask.

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