While attention has been focused on the Syria-Skripal mess in recent days, there have been quiet developments elsewhere in the world that portend some very significant long-term geopolitical developments. We've seen a number of Japanese-Chinese initiatives and meetings, and quiet Japanese-Korean initiatives as the three Asian economic powerhouses try to solve the North Korean problem with, let it be noted, a minimal amount of American involvement.
This development, I suspect, owes much to Mr. Abe's government's decision in recent years to re-arm Japan. Looking at Mr. Abe's careful diplomacy in the region with China, Korea, and Russia, I've been arguing that the Japanese re-armament program is is being sold in a careful way. On the one hand, Japan is saying to the west, and in particular to the United States, that Japan is willing to do "more of its fair share" in regional security. But I strongly suspect that in private Japan has concluded that the USA's days as the global hegemon are numbered, and that the US empire cannot, in the mid-to-long-term, be relied upon to secure Japan's defense.
Japan, in other words, has concluded that it must rearm, or be overwhelmed by Russian and Chinese power.
And that, of course, Japan will not allow to happen.
Mr. T.M. found the following article and sent it to me, and I propose to interpret it from the broader context outlined above:
Before analyzing some crucial statements in this article, note first that if this reading of Japanese rearmament intentions is true, then it places the USA in a difficult and delicate position: should it continue to deny the export of advanced defense technology to allies like Japan? Or cooperate in the development of those technologies in Japan?
With those questions in mind, now consider certain statements in the article:
US defense contractor Lockheed Martin Corp plans to offer Japan a stealth fighter design based on its export-banned F-22 Raptor and advanced F-35 Lightning II aircraft, two sources said.
Lockheed has discussed the idea with Japanese defense ministry officials and will make a formal proposal in response to a Japanese request for information (RFI) after it receives permission from the US government to offer the sensitive military technology, said the sources, who have direct knowledge of the proposal.
The decision on whether to release parts of the highly classified aircraft designs and software to help Japan stay ahead of Chinese advances will test President Donald Trump's promise to overhaul his country's arms export policy.
The proposed aircraft "would combine the F-22 and F-35 and could be superior to both of them," said one of the sources.
Japan's ambition to build its own stealth fighter was in part spurred by Washington's refusal a decade ago to sell it the twin-engined F-22, which is still considered the world's best air superiority fighter.
Although the Japanese stealth aircraft program, dubbed the F-3, was conceived as a domestic effort estimated to cost around $40 billion, Tokyo has recently sought international collaboration in a bid to share the expense and gain access to technology it would otherwise have to develop from scratch.
"We look forward to exploring options for Japan's F-2 replacement fighter in cooperation with both the Japanese and U.S. governments. Our leadership and experience in 5th generation aircraft can be leveraged to cost-effectively provide capabilities to meet Japan's future security needs," a Lockheed Martin spokeswoman said.(Emphasis added)
So to summarize what this article is saying, and reading between the lines:
1) Japan was refused the right to purchase the F-22 Raptor and thus gain access to crucial aircraft stealth technology;
2) Japan then decided that it would have to develop and/or purchase the technology on its own or from elsewhere in order to maintain parity with China (and, by implication, Russia);
3) Lockheed then stepped in with an offer to jointly develop a new stealth fighter with Japanese defense contractors like Mitsubishi.
It is clear that, from the Lockheed-American side that the offer is being made to keep Japan dependent on American technology and arms. But reading between the lines, Japanese law would, in effect, require any technology thus obtained to be produced in Japan. And all this, I suggest, is a confirmation that Japan's rearmament program has, in the long run, nothing whatsoever to do with Japan "doing its part with the USA" to secure the Pacific, though this is part and parcel of the short term agenda.
What Japan will do, in any case, is worth watching very carefully, for if it accepts Lockheed's deal, I do not imagine that I will do so without, in some fashion, gaining the ability to produce the all essential components in Japan. If it does not accept Lockheed's deal, then it faces the long term cost of developing its own capability, which eventually it will do. In either case, Mr. Abe's rearmament program will proceed. My suspicion? I suspect that Japan will quickly develop a muscular defense technology by a global effort of corporate agreements and technology transfers. It's the old I.G. Farben strategy of cartel and licensing agreements for technology transfer; look for MITI and the big Japanese engineering firms to pursue it vigorously, and with any and all customers, including India, Russia, China, and the European powers.
In short, with the USA, Japan is in the position to pick the best deal, because it will create that best deal merely by the threat of taking its business "elsewhere".
See you on the flip side...