Again a land of the rising sun

David Howell – The International Herald Tribune

Saturday, January 22, 2005
LONDON Japan is once more going from strength to strength, and this time not just on the economic front. Militarily, diplomatically and in terms of cultural influence and general global activism, Japan is transforming itself, and at speed – not merely into a “normal” country, but into a formidable player across a wide front.
.
Militarily, the Japanese have embarked on a huge upgrade of their overall power-projection capabilities, reinforced by a big expansion of intelligence resources and of their already large satellite program.
.
In effect, this is a farewell to the old “Yoshida doctrine,” which based security strictly on national self-defense. Instead, it ushers in a new phase of “equal partnership” defense arrangements, especially with the United States, with interlocking ground, air and maritime forces at an unprecedented level of interoperability and intimacy.
.
This is going hand in hand with the procurement of a mass of new sophisticated weaponry and an extensive command-and-control make-over, adding up to a force structure second only to that of the Americans, and in some areas equal to it in quality and certainly well ahead of most other military establishments around the world.
.
Japan is not “going nuclear,” and there is no great interest in that option. But the decision has been made to procure a full system of ballistic missile defense, and to work further with the Americans in this area.
.
In short, Japan is re-emerging as a major military power both in East Asia and globally. But that is only part of the new picture.
.
After years of immobilism, Japan has now wheeled forward a strongly proactive foreign-policy-making system, which puts it at the center of the world diplomatic scene. For example, the country is playing a central role in Indian Ocean rescue-and-recovery operations, and it won out against China over the route of the proposed oil pipeline from Siberia to the Pacific.
.
Japan’s passion for balance and harmony is satisfied by the matching of much closer U.S. security links with heavy economic gravitation toward China. Thus bets are hedged all around, with some far-sighted policy makers eyeing India as the next big destination for Japanese investment – a counterweight to the Chinese counterweight, so to speak.
.
If all this sounds like old-style realpolitik and “hard power” talk, then look at the cultural front – clothes designs, interior décor themes, films, art, food, lifestyles – where American brands are being challenged and driven out by “Tokyo cool.”
.
After Japan’s decade of stagnation and the prolonged quagmire of deflation and non-performing loans, its banks are gradually cleaning their balance sheets, consumers are cautiously spending again and cutting-edge innovation is re-emerging all across the manufacturing front. But is this recovery just another phase in the cycle of the country’s amazing ups and downs since World War II?
.
It is indeed more than just a commercial replay of the past – it is Japan on a fundamentally new policy trajectory. What strikes the outsider is how the repositioning this time is being given an intellectual underpinning of admirable depth and thoroughness.
.
This is both refreshing and necessary, since Japanese public opinion is being asked to turn from its years of pacificism to the opposite – a strong forward stance in world affairs, as exemplified by the expanding commitment in Iraq and even a willingness to sign up to pre-emptive security doctrines which, so their American partners insist, are an essential part of the war on terror. These are the new tests of “normal country” status that Japan is thinking through and to which it now seeks to adjust.
.
All this is something new on the world stage, as yet little noticed in the West, and it could prove to be either good news or bad news.
.
The obvious “good” arises from the prospect of the world’s second-largest economic power at last stepping confidently and determinedly into the international arena and sharing the burden of tackling and soothing the world’s many sicknesses. The less happy prospect is of a Japan more enmeshed than ever with American military power and therefore arousing even more hostility in a prickly China, regardless of Japanese investment.
.
Despite these dangers, the positive outcomes from Japan’s new direction look worth backing. But they need to be understood and interpreted correctly by the West, not lost in translation.
.
Japan I
 
LONDON Japan is once more going from strength to strength, and this time not just on the economic front. Militarily, diplomatically and in terms of cultural influence and general global activism, Japan is transforming itself, and at speed – not merely into a “normal” country, but into a formidable player across a wide front.
.
Militarily, the Japanese have embarked on a huge upgrade of their overall power-projection capabilities, reinforced by a big expansion of intelligence resources and of their already large satellite program.
.
In effect, this is a farewell to the old “Yoshida doctrine,” which based security strictly on national self-defense. Instead, it ushers in a new phase of “equal partnership” defense arrangements, especially with the United States, with interlocking ground, air and maritime forces at an unprecedented level of interoperability and intimacy.
.
This is going hand in hand with the procurement of a mass of new sophisticated weaponry and an extensive command-and-control make-over, adding up to a force structure second only to that of the Americans, and in some areas equal to it in quality and certainly well ahead of most other military establishments around the world.
.
Japan is not “going nuclear,” and there is no great interest in that option. But the decision has been made to procure a full system of ballistic missile defense, and to work further with the Americans in this area.
.
In short, Japan is re-emerging as a major military power both in East Asia and globally. But that is only part of the new picture.
.
After years of immobilism, Japan has now wheeled forward a strongly proactive foreign-policy-making system, which puts it at the center of the world diplomatic scene. For example, the country is playing a central role in Indian Ocean rescue-and-recovery operations, and it won out against China over the route of the proposed oil pipeline from Siberia to the Pacific.
.
Japan’s passion for balance and harmony is satisfied by the matching of much closer U.S. security links with heavy economic gravitation toward China. Thus bets are hedged all around, with some far-sighted policy makers eyeing India as the next big destination for Japanese investment – a counterweight to the Chinese counterweight, so to speak.
.
If all this sounds like old-style realpolitik and “hard power” talk, then look at the cultural front – clothes designs, interior décor themes, films, art, food, lifestyles – where American brands are being challenged and driven out by “Tokyo cool.”
.
After Japan’s decade of stagnation and the prolonged quagmire of deflation and non-performing loans, its banks are gradually cleaning their balance sheets, consumers are cautiously spending again and cutting-edge innovation is re-emerging all across the manufacturing front. But is this recovery just another phase in the cycle of the country’s amazing ups and downs since World War II?
.
It is indeed more than just a commercial replay of the past – it is Japan on a fundamentally new policy trajectory. What strikes the outsider is how the repositioning this time is being given an intellectual underpinning of admirable depth and thoroughness.
.
This is both refreshing and necessary, since Japanese public opinion is being asked to turn from its years of pacificism to the opposite – a strong forward stance in world affairs, as exemplified by the expanding commitment in Iraq and even a willingness to sign up to pre-emptive security doctrines which, so their American partners insist, are an essential part of the war on terror. These are the new tests of “normal country” status that Japan is thinking through and to which it now seeks to adjust.
.
All this is something new on the world stage, as yet little noticed in the West, and it could prove to be either good news or bad news.
.
The obvious “good” arises from the prospect of the world’s second-largest economic power at last stepping confidently and determinedly into the international arena and sharing the burden of tackling and soothing the world’s many sicknesses. The less happy prospect is of a Japan more enmeshed than ever with American military power and therefore arousing even more hostility in a prickly China, regardless of Japanese investment.
.
Despite these dangers, the positive outcomes from Japan’s new direction look worth backing. But they need to be understood and interpreted correctly by the West, not lost in translation.
.
Japan I
 
LONDON Japan is once more going from strength to strength, and this time not just on the economic front. Militarily, diplomatically and in terms of cultural influence and general global activism, Japan is transforming itself, and at speed – not merely into a “normal” country, but into a formidable player across a wide front.
.
Militarily, the Japanese have embarked on a huge upgrade of their overall power-projection capabilities, reinforced by a big expansion of intelligence resources and of their already large satellite program.
.
In effect, this is a farewell to the old “Yoshida doctrine,” which based security strictly on national self-defense. Instead, it ushers in a new phase of “equal partnership” defense arrangements, especially with the United States, with interlocking ground, air and maritime forces at an unprecedented level of interoperability and intimacy.
.
This is going hand in hand with the procurement of a mass of new sophisticated weaponry and an extensive command-and-control make-over, adding up to a force structure second only to that of the Americans, and in some areas equal to it in quality and certainly well ahead of most other military establishments around the world.
.
Japan is not “going nuclear,” and there is no great interest in that option. But the decision has been made to procure a full system of ballistic missile defense, and to work further with the Americans in this area.
.
In short, Japan is re-emerging as a major military power both in East Asia and globally. But that is only part of the new picture.
.
After years of immobilism, Japan has now wheeled forward a strongly proactive foreign-policy-making system, which puts it at the center of the world diplomatic scene. For example, the country is playing a central role in Indian Ocean rescue-and-recovery operations, and it won out against China over the route of the proposed oil pipeline from Siberia to the Pacific.
.
Japan’s passion for balance and harmony is satisfied by the matching of much closer U.S. security links with heavy economic gravitation toward China. Thus bets are hedged all around, with some far-sighted policy makers eyeing India as the next big destination for Japanese investment – a counterweight to the Chinese counterweight, so to speak.
.
If all this sounds like old-style realpolitik and “hard power” talk, then look at the cultural front – clothes designs, interior décor themes, films, art, food, lifestyles – where American brands are being challenged and driven out by “Tokyo cool.”
.
After Japan’s decade of stagnation and the prolonged quagmire of deflation and non-performing loans, its banks are gradually cleaning their balance sheets, consumers are cautiously spending again and cutting-edge innovation is re-emerging all across the manufacturing front. But is this recovery just another phase in the cycle of the country’s amazing ups and downs since World War II?
.
It is indeed more than just a commercial replay of the past – it is Japan on a fundamentally new policy trajectory. What strikes the outsider is how the repositioning this time is being given an intellectual underpinning of admirable depth and thoroughness.
.
This is both refreshing and necessary, since Japanese public opinion is being asked to turn from its years of pacificism to the opposite – a strong forward stance in world affairs, as exemplified by the expanding commitment in Iraq and even a willingness to sign up to pre-emptive security doctrines which, so their American partners insist, are an essential part of the war on terror. These are the new tests of “normal country” status that Japan is thinking through and to which it now seeks to adjust.


http://www.iht.com/articles/2005/01/21/opinion/edhowell.html

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