Over the years, ever since Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe successfully rid Japan of its constitutional restraints on defense spending, I've been arguing that Japan has fundamentally changed its geopolitical and defense posture and is a "country to watch" in the Pacific. Central to my thesis is the hypothesis that Japan's rearmament has been based on a long-term assessment that the US Empire is failing, and is thus motivated by a double agenda: (1) convincing the US that Japan is willing to bear its "fair share" of its own defense burden, while (2) realizing that the US is, as the Russians put it, "not agreement capable," and that reliance upon such an untrustworthy ally is in the long-term just plain folly. Under such circumstances, Japanese re-armament, or rather, expanded armament is in my opinion inevitably designed to cut all military cords with Washington, and to restore it to equal negotiating status.
This assessment appears to be corroborated by Mr. Abe's recent negotiating strategies, particularly as far as Russia is concerned. In an unprecedented step, Mr. Abe agreed to set aside Japanese postwar claims on the Kurile Islands to arrive at understandings with Mr. Putin about the creation of a kind of "free trade" zone in those islands, and for his part, Mr. Putin agreed to allow more Japanese settlement in the Russian-occupied islands provided that it is understood that they are subject to Russian, and not Japanese, law. As a result, Russia and Japan have also negotiated lucrative deals, and as I blogged recently, the Japanese have conducted tests on portions of Russia's Trans-Siberian railway. As I speculated at the time, these tests I suspect are to gain Japanese expertise and experience (not to mention capital) to transform the line into high speed rail. The Japanese after all have been building high speed rail longer than just about anyone else. Geopolitically, it makes sense for both nations, for a Russo-Japanese rapprochement gives Japan a source of energy much closer to Japan, and not subject either to Chinese or American interdiction (and lest we forget, it was American interdiction of those energy supplies in 1941 that let to the outbreak of the war between the USA and Japan), and it gives Russia a counter-balance to growing Chinese power in the region. As if to drive that point home, Japan recently indicated to Australia that if France has difficulty completing a submarine order for the Australian navy, Japan would be only too happy to do so.
With that background, consider this important find from Mr. J.T.:
What's crucial here are the first two paragraphs:
TOKYO -- The Ministry of Defense has decided on a plan to introduce a new type of "high-speed gliding missiles" with small wings attached to the payload to guide it to its target by fiscal 2026 for use by the Ground Self-Defense Force (GSDF), an individual close to the matter has disclosed.
The development of the missiles will be divided into two stages, and the projectiles designated for use in protecting Japan's remote islands are expected to have a range of around 300 to 500 kilometers. However, this would mean an increase in the missile range of the Self-Defense Forces (SDF), and there is a possibility that the addition's compliance with Japan's policy of being exclusively defense-oriented will be questioned. (Emphasis added)
The fact that the article itself questions the rationale behind the development is an indicator of what is really happening. As Mr. J.T. put it in his email, it would appear that the real purpose here is to develop an operational and ultimately strategic offensive capability. Increasing ranges of missiles to 500 kilometers may not seem to be a big deal, except that when one adds the staging of missiles to employ guided gliding payloads to Japan's already-possessed heavy space payload launch capability, and what is in a few short years an operational offensive capability could become, in those same short years, a strategic offensive capability. China, Russia, USA (and Korea) take note (and I'm sure they already have).
Like it or not, all this means that Japan will increasingly become part of the geopolitical and military calculation of the Pacific rim, and it also means, I suspect, that my speculation that Japan's rearmament is about more than just doing its "fair share" in Pacific security. Even if that is all it is about, I strongly suspect that that "fair share" will only increase over time.
See you on the flip side...