Abe's Normal Nation, US-Japan Strange Bedfellows
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, Republic of China)
December 8, 2013
Summary: The purpose of Biden's trip to East Asia was to allow the US play the role of peacemaker. It was not to play with matches and intensify the conflict. Upon assuming power, Abe charged forward with his Great Power dream for Japan. But when he looks back, he finds himself fighting alone. The US and Japan are singing different tunes about the East China Sea ADIZ. That ought to be a warning to Japan.
Full text below:
Observers are concerned about heightened tensions in East Asia in the wake of Beijing's announcement of an East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ). The Japanese government has cleverly exploited the situation. Both houses of parliament passed a "National Security Council Law" and "Special State Secrets Protection Act." The Abe regime is nominally promoting the "normalization of the nation." But is brazenly attempting hide in plain sight. By doing so, it is merely making Japan's East Asian ambitions increasingly clear.
First, it has established a "National Security Council." This has long been Abe's dream. The Abe regime longs to restore Japan's status as a great power. Rebuilding its security system is an important part of this ambition. Since Abe became prime minister in 2006, he has done everything possible to pass this law. But the Japanese public would not accept it. Now however, he has taken advantage of the East China Sea ADIZ to incite anti-Chinese hatred. He got the bill passed in one fell swoop. A National Security Council has been established. It has become Prime Minister Abe's political power center. Japan's security policy will be firmly in the hands of the Prime Minister, the Cabinet Chief, the Defense Minister, Foreign Minister, and four other policy making groups.
Secondly, he promoted the Special State Secrets Protection Act as a complement to the National Security Council Establishment Law. The Special State Secrets Protection Act enables Abe to use the National Security Council to classify information based on security policy. Without the cover of the Special Secrets Protection Act, the power of the National Security Council would be seriously undermined. No wonder Abe ignored intense public opposition within Japan. No wonder he risked having his public support fall below 50%. He rammed through the bill. Henceforth the policies developed by Japan's National Security Council are likely to become Special State Secrets. Parliament will not be able to review them. Japanese citizens will no longer be able to know what national security policy is.
Take Japanese society. The National Security Council Establishment Law and the Special State Secrets Protection Act are ostensibly part of the nation's "normalization." But the Japanese public sees them as very different. Establishing a National Security Council enables Japan to respond rapidly in the face of cross-departmental emergencies and to take any necessary measures. Establishing a National Security Council unifies the intelligence ministries, making it a single window that reports to the Prime Minister. This is a big step in the integration of intelligence and strategy.
By contrast, the Special State Secrets Protection Act has provoked intense public suspicion. The law lacks concrete definitions for confidential information. Yet it includes an extensive list of defense, diplomacy, counter espionage, and anti-terrorism items. It includes 23 specific secrets, including quantity of weapons, ammunition, and aircraft. The Japanese government can classify any intelligence unfavorable to it as confidential information. These are the main reasons 60% of the Japanese public opposes the act. Moreover, the Special State Secrets Protection Act concentrates all the information in hands of the Prime Minister and few others. This is a giant step backwards for Japanese democracy.
Take international society. When the Japanese government made significant modifications to defense policy in the past, it usually first sold the idea abroad, then adopted it back home. It cited changes in the international situation or demands by allies as excuses to demand parliamentary and public support. This time however, the Abe government cited demands by the United States as its trump card. It said the U.S. government repeatedly asked Japan to increase its intelligence security measures in order to enhance the sharing of intelligence. In fact, after Japan's National Security Council was established, the focus shifted to Sino-Japanese relations, the Diaoyutai Islands dispute, and defense issues. The highest priority was changes to collective defense and the establishment of new defense plans. The implementation of these has fallen well short of U.S. government expectations.
Take the United States. On the one hand it does not recognize Beijing's ADIZ. On the other hand it requires U.S. civilian aircraft to submit flight plans to the Chinese mainland. As we can see, the maintenance of stability in East Asia remains the first order of United States policy. Recently Xi Jinping met with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden. They said that despite their differences, they hoped to strengthen the new great power relationship between the US and China. Abe asked the US to demand that the Chinese mainland revoke its ADIZ. The United States turned Abe down. This shows that containing Japan's aggressive behavior is an important US consideration.
The purpose of Biden's trip to East Asia was to allow the US play the role of peacemaker. It was not to play with matches and intensify the conflict. Upon assuming power, Abe charged forward with his Great Power dream for Japan. But when he looks back, he finds himself fighting alone. The US and Japan are singing different tunes about the East China Sea ADIZ. That ought to be a warning to Japan.
2013.12.08 04:18 am