Thursday, July 26, 2007

Japan Re-Arms, Prepares For Future Wars

Pacifist Constitution Likely To Be Rewritten As Japan Spends Billions On American Weapons

Japan is rearming on a scale not seen since the late 1930s. At the same time, Japan is expected to soon change its Constitution, one that renounces war and only allows for troops to be used in defence of Japanese sovereignty, after deploying non-combat forces into Iraq. Rumours are beginning to sound in diplomatic circles that Japan may soon begin a propaganda campaign on its people to attempt to chase away the widespread abhorrence generations of Japanese still hold towards nuclear weapons.

At the same time, Japan is rapidly rewriting its list of what it can do, and what it cant do, as far as its military forces go. Its Defence Agency has been quietly transformed into a full ministry. Its defence budget now tops $40 billion a year, making it one of the top buyers of international arms and weapons systems.

This famously pacifist nation is becoming something else entirely.

Japan is now a key ally of the United States, and is receiving billions in declared, and undeclared, military funding. Japan plays a key role, along with Australia, in the American encirclement of China, and has all but declared it will eventually host American missiles, radar stations and more US bases as part of the Missile Defence Shield project that has seen Russia verbally threaten European states.

In June, Japan joined the United States Air Force for war games in the western Pacific. Japanese pilots dropped 500 pound live bombs on a tiny island, a first for its current generation of pilots. It's hard for Westerners to imagine how dramatic so simple a military rehearsal as this is for the Japanese.

From the International Herald Tribune :

Flying directly from Japan and practicing live-bombing runs on distant foreign targets would have been regarded as unacceptably provocative because the implicit message was clear: These fighter jets could perhaps fly to North Korea and take out some targets before returning home safely.

The incremental changes - especially since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States - amount to the most significant transformation in the Japanese military since World War II, one that has brought it ever closer operationally to America's military while rattling nerves throughout northeast Asia.

In a little over half a decade, the Japanese military has carried out changes considered unthinkable a few years back. In the Indian Ocean, Japanese destroyers and refueling ships are helping the U.S. military fight in Afghanistan. In Iraq, Japanese planes are transporting cargo and U.S. soldiers to Baghdad from Kuwait.

Japan is acquiring weapons that blur the line between defensive and offensive. For the Guam bombing run, Tokyo deployed its newest fighter jets, the F-2, the first developed jointly by Japan and the United States.

Unlike its older jets, the F-2s were able to fly the 2,700 kilometers, or 1,700 miles, from northern Japan to Guam without refueling - a "straight shot," as the Japanese military said with pride.

Now Japan is indicating that it is intensely interested in buying the F-22 Raptor, a U.S. stealth fighter known mainly for its offensive capabilities, like penetrating contested airspace and destroying enemy targets, and whose export is prohibited by U.S. law.

Critics at home say the military changes under way, details of which the government has tried to hide from public view, especially for missions in Iraq, have already violated the (pacifist) Constitution and other restrictions.

"The reality has already moved ahead, so they will now talk about the need to catch up and revise the Constitution," said Yukio Hatoyama, secretary general of the main opposition Democratic Party.

Richard Samuels, a Japan expert at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said that revisionist politicians like Abe and Koizumi, once on the fringes of Japan's political world, have succeeded in grabbing the mainstream in a time of uncertainty. They shared the view, Samuels said, "that the statute of limitations on Japan's misbehavior during the Pacific War had expired" and that Japan should have a military like any normal country.

Their predecessors feared getting entangled in a U.S.-led war. But the new leaders feared that Japan would be abandoned by the United States unless it contributed to its wars, Samuels said.

Japan's military has become less shy in projecting its power away from home. Japan lacks the nuclear submarines, long-range missiles or large aircraft carriers that amount to real power projection.

But it is acquiring four Boeing 767 air tankers that will allow its planes to refuel in midair, as well as two aircraft carriers that will transport helicopters and, with some adjustments, planes capable of taking off vertically.

The United States has welcomed the changes while pressing for more.

"The restrictions that Japan has lived under, which I would say Japan has maintained on its own or imposed on itself, are quite unique," said a Pentagon official who requested anonymity so that he could speak candidly.

"The changes that you're seeing in Japan are very unique changes in the context of those restrictions. In the context of everything else that is going on around the world, or in the context of Japan's potential to contribute to the region and the world in security areas, the changes are fairly small."

They may be small, but the money being spent is enormous. In amongst the back-and-forths on whether or not Japan should be getting involved in foreign wars and allying so closely with the United States, the simple fact is that Japan is a rich nation, and the United States is a leading manufacturer of the weapons of war.

Behind all the heartache over changing Japan's pacifist Constitution, and debates about its involvement in the US Missile Shield, there are multi-billion dollar deals being cut in the boardrooms between the Japanese government and the US military industrial complex, which remains one of the biggest employers and money-generating industries in the United States.

Right now, Japan is buying up its products to the tune of billions of dollars, generating wealth, jobs and taxes for the US government. Naturally, this makes the Bush administration, and the military industry elite of America very, very happy indeed.

Japan Now Plans To Build Its Own Stealth Fighter