Japan's noisy advocacy of "maritime security" conceals sinister intentions

China Military Online
Huang Panyue
2023-12-26 18:11:46

By Li Hai

The Japan-ASEAN Commemorative Summit was held in Tokyo on December 17. Although the summit was held to commemorate the 50th anniversary of friendship and cooperation between Japan and ASEAN, the Japanese side took advantage of the occasion to discuss the so-called "maritime security" issue and brought its own interests into the "new vision" for bilateral relations with ASEAN. 

Japan attempts to leverage ASEAN to open the Pandora's Box of its arms exports. In recent years, Japan has continuously expanded its arms exports under the guidance or tacit approval of the US. In April this year, Japan established the Official Security Assistance (OSA) scheme aimed at providing defense equipment to other countries. Easing the long-standing restrictions on arms exports and revitalizing the defense industry funding chain are crucial steps for Japan to reclaim its status as a "normal state" and seek to become a political and military power.

Under the banner of maritime security cooperation, Japan has targeted ASEAN countries as key public relations objects within the OSA framework, with various moves. 

In November, Japan decided to provide the Philippines with coast surveillance radar worth 600 million yen under the OSA framework during Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida's visit to the Philippines. Japan announced the provision of warning and surveillance equipment to Malaysia and a large Japanese-made patrol vessel to Indonesia at this summit. 

As the relaxation of arms exports continues, Japan's arms trade with ASEAN countries may evolve from donations to sales, and the types of exported weapons may gradually shift from non-lethal and defensive to extremely dangerous offensive.

Japan aims to expand its regional influence with the support of the US. In recent years, Japan has taken advantage of the opportunity presented by the Indo-Pacific strategy of the US to pave the way for its arms exports and even military infiltration into ASEAN. Japan not only frequently brings up the US-advocated rhetoric of "free and open Indo-Pacific" and "freedom of navigation and overflight" in its interactions with ASEAN countries, but also echoes the two main focuses of the US in the Indo-Pacific region – "maritime security" and "supply chain security". Japan brought up the so-called maritime security along with discussions on digital connectivity and supply chain resilience at this summit.

In fact, the Japanese government is not merely cooperating with or following the US but is attempting to independently develop and even lead military ties with ASEAN beyond the scope of the US-Japan alliance. Japan seeks to turn ASEAN into a crucial pivot for promoting its own version of the "Indo-Pacific concept". By providing security assistance and military equipment, Japan aims to enhance ASEAN's dependence and then realize the comprehensive export of military technology and products, form its own military partner network and elevate its influence in Southeast Asia.

Japan aims to gain discourse power on the South China Sea issue, vigorously promoting its "maritime security cooperation" concept to ASEAN and evidently intending to exploit and exaggerate recent tensions. Moreover, it is rallying ASEAN countries including the Philippines to sign the Reciprocal Access Agreement (RAA) for deeper maritime cooperation, but its real aim is to open a military presence channel for itself in Southeast Asia.

As a defeated country in World War II, Japan has not only failed to deeply reflect on its war responsibilities but has also attempted to continuously expand its military presence in the region. 

In fact, in spite of Japan's lure and entanglement, most ASEAN member states maintain a high level of alertness, repeatedly expressed their refusal to become proxies for any external forces and rejected to take sides on regional hotspot issues. The Japanese government seemed to have barked up the wrong tree.

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