Japan should rethink its rejection of offensive weapons, a senior US military officer said yesterday in Tokyo, while the US Coast Guard chief warned of China’s “antagonistic” behavior in disputed waters.
There needs to be a discussion between the government of Japan and the public about the threats that are out there, said the US military officer, who spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity.
The officer cited China as a particular risk.
The pacifism built into Japan’s US-drafted, post-World War II constitution means attempts to bolster defenses frequently face opposition from residents, even as China and North Korea build up their arsenals of ballistic missiles.
Japan, which hosts about 50,000 US military personnel, also places tighter constraints on training than other countries, the officer said.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has increased the defense budget and sought to loosen the constraints of the war-renouncing constitution since taking office in 2012, but repairing ties with China, Japan’s biggest trade partner, has also been a priority for his administration.
The officer said China has spent heavily to bolster its ballistic missile force, which has rapidly expanded over the years.
China continues to say that it backs peace, stability and security, but it does not match its words as it builds a weapons inventory that threatens Japan as well as others in the region, the officer said.
Japan’s avoidance of offensive weaponry under its constitution is no longer acceptable and should be another topic of discussion with the public, the officer said.
Restrictions on training, such as access to ranges or permission to fly at low altitude or at night, are affecting the ability of both US forces and the Japan Self-Defense Forces to prepare for contingencies, the officer said, adding that Japan should debate the issue soon.
Meanwhile, the US Coast Guard’s commandant, Admiral Karl Schultz, said in a teleconference that China had a plan to increase its access across the globe, as he warned of Beijing’s “coercive and antagonistic” actions in disputed waters.
“China talks about peaceful conduct, and then we see man-made island where there weren’t islands before,” Schultz said when asked to assess Beijing’s actions in the South China Sea.
The US Coast Guard would continue to increase presence and add more vessels in the Pacific amid China’s “expansive intent,” he added.
In related news, US Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Chad Sbragia said in Beijing that the US is not seeking to “decouple” from China and not asking any country to choose sides.
Speaking at the Xiangshan Forum, Sbragia sought to place bilateral relations in a positive light.
“One area that I would comment and challenge on is — I’ve heard this on this panel and other panels — the idea that the United States approach is fundamentally based on decoupling,” Sbragia said at a panel on the sidelines of the forum.
“I’ll tell you from personal experience that’s not only not official US policy, that’s not even a policy discussion that I hear in my day-to-day business. That’s not even how we think about that,” he said.
“If decoupling was actually the practice, what you would see on a day-to-day basis would be fundamentally different than what you see,” he said.
What the US is trying to do is “rebalance and right relationships to ensure that we have equity,” said Sbragia, who is leading the US delegation to the forum.
“Our treaty alliances in the Indo -Pacific are not maintained as a relic of Cold War thinking, as some contend, but are manifestations of our enduring commitment to ensuring our allies and partners are secure in their sovereignty,” he said.
“Our inclusive vision extends to China as well. Competition with China does mean conflict, and the United States will not ask any country to choose between Washington and Beijing,” Sbraigia said.
“That’s not how the logic of our framework, our approach, is set,” he added.
Source: Bloomberg/Taipei Times