Toshio Masuda


Toshio Matsuda, Commentator & Intl Economist

Straight from the Shoulder

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gStraight from the shoulder g by Toshio Masuda Mar 12, 2007
( Free of charge to the people I met)

The New Asian Order

Recently, the word India has begun to appear frequently in Japanese and US media. Events widely reported in both Japan and the US include the major military exercises conducted by the US and Indian Navy in the Indian Ocean, the signing of an accord between the US and India on cooperation in the field of nuclear technology, and the approval by the US Congress of that accord. Commentators debated why the US agreed to provide nuclear technology to India even though India has not signed the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, which means there is a significant possibility that India could divert nuclear (uranium enrichment) development to military use. Last year, there was also a great deal of activity in connection with defense relationships between Japan and India. In May 2006, the Director-General of Japan's Defense Agency met India's Defense Minister and they confirmed the importance of reciprocal visits by naval vessels from both countries and also visits to India by the Chiefs of Staff of the Ground, Maritime and Air Self Defense Forces to deepen mutual relationships with senior Indian military personnel. In December 2006, Indian Prime Minister Mamohan Singh visited Japan and the two countries issued a joint statement on their "strategic global partnership". Political relationships between Japan and India are clearly strengthening. Between February 20 and 22 of this year, US Vice President Dick Cheney visited Japan. He met with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and agreed that Japan, the US, Australia and India should continue to expand their defense cooperation. Additionally, Australian Prime Minister John Howard arrived in Japan yesterday (March 11.) Japan and Australia are scheduled to issue a joint security declaration during his visit (this was announced before Mr. Howard arrived in Japan).

At the end of January, when I met Herbert London of the Hudson Institute, Mr. London said that 2007 would bring a "New Asian Order". Mr. London said that the United States is worried that the military balance in Asia is beginning to crumble due to the rapid expansion of the Chinese military. He said that the US is working to develop a strategy to contain China by building a four-party security framework together with Japan, Australia and India. Japan-US cooperation on missile defense and Japanese support for the reorganization of the US military in Japan were both brought forward as a result of North Korea's missile test in July 2006 and nuclear test in October 2006. Prime Minister Abe's summit with US Vice President Cheney and upcoming summit with Australian Prime Minister Howard confirm that the construction of a defense framework involving the four countries is accelerating.

Following these developments, Japan has finally taking concrete steps (military exercises) towards the reorganization of the Japan-based U.S. military. Japan, the US and India are scheduled to hold joint military exercises in the Pacific Ocean near Japan at the beginning of April. The exercises aim to develop joint working relationships (divisions of labor) to ensure that mutual exchanges of military information and any future combat operations will proceed smoothly. This recent series of developments involving Japan, the US, Australia and India aims to check the rise in the military strength of China and restore the military balance in Asia. It represents the beginning of more aggressive efforts to build a military network that encircles China and Russia. China's military spending has been growing at 10% or more for 19 consecutive years since 1989. During the 10th session of the National People's Congress which opened on March 3, China approved a defense budget of approximately 350 billion yuan (nearly $45 billion (US) or 5.33 trillion yen). The US Department of Defense believes that China's actual military spending is 2 to 3 times the publicly disclosed figure. However, even the publicly disclosed figure for this year will exceed Japan's defense spending for the first time. This reversal will fuel the arguments of those who perceive China as a threat.

The future order of Asia lies in the balance of power between China and Russia on one hand and Japan, the US, Australia and India on the other. This is the "New Asian Order" to which Mr. London refers. Mr. Abe's Cabinet, which has announced that one of Japan's foreign policies is the creation of an "arc of freedom and prosperity" (an alliance of states stretching from Northeast Asia through Central Asia and the Caucasus to Turkey, Central and Eastern Europe and finally the Baltic states), intends to provide "soft support" for the creation of a defense network (arc) between Japan, the US, Australia and India to contain China and Russia. Mr. Abe often refers to the Japan that can "speak up". He is moving to put those words into practice.

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Written by Toshio Masuda