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NightWatch 20101208


For the Night of 8 December 2010

Japan: Japan must improve its defense capability near its maritime border with China in the southwest, Vice Defense Minister Jun Azumi said on 8 December. The expansion of China's military has increased regional instability.

Azumi said Japan must ensure the mobility of its forces over the next decade to strengthen its defense, and it should revise its weapons export ban, he said. The country's public debt, roughly double its $5 trillion economy, complicates efforts to improve its defense capability, he said.

Japan should strengthen defense cooperation with South Korea, Australia and India, Azumi said, adding that North Korea's actions provided a suitable environment for Japanese-South Korean coordination.

Comment: The most important comment was about the need to strengthen defense cooperation with South Korean, Australia and India. Asian and Pacific countries are taking responsibility for the security of Asia, with or without American help in the future.

Analysts need to pay careful attention to Japanese official statements about defense and national security. Statements like that above have become more frequent than ever and are reshaping public attitudes, spurred by irresponsible North Korean and Chinese behaviors that create confrontation.

Japan's warrior tradition is infinitely more deeply rooted than latter-day, post-World War II pacifism. Support for more expansive defense operations are manifest in Japan's deployment of a contingent in Iraq, airlift operations from Kuwait, fueling support for Allied naval forces in the Arabian Sea, and support for anti-piracy operations off Somali, including building a bases in Djibouti. Once Japan's constitution is amended or modified to permit collective security, the era of post-war pacifism will have ended.

Japan-US-Russia: On Monday, two Russian Il-38 MAY anti-submarine naval patrol aircraft loitered for several hours over the area of Japan-US exercises, prompting Allied forces to halt the exercises until the MAYs departed. The exercises - codenamed KEEN SWORD - are being held to mark the 50th anniversary of the US-Japan alliance.

Japanese government spokesman Yoshito Sengoku said, "It is a fact that as part of the continuing Japan-US joint exercises, there was training taking place in the Sea of Japan on the sixth of this month," he said. It is also a fact that fighter jets were launched after Russian planes were detected over the Sea of Japan near Japan's Noto peninsula."

A Russian military spokesman said the jets were flying within their "zone of responsibility. The aircraft carried out a planned flight in an area of the Russian Pacific Fleet's regular activity," he said.

"Our pilots did not violate any rules of international airspace.

Comment: This was a reprise of Cold War behavior, except the Japanese forces of 2010 are among the most modern in the world, especially compared to the Russians. The Russians apparently thought they were tweaking the US, as was common before the collapse of the Soviet Union. Good fun, except the Russians need to be careful because the relevant precedent for Japanese responses to Russian provocations is 1905, not 1945.

It would be a shame were Russian MAYs shot down by Japanese missiles in some inconceivable accident.

Japan and the Search for Rare Earth Elements

India: The Japanese trading house Toyota Tsusho Corporation announced that it will begin construction of a rare earth processing plant in India in 2011 in an effort to secure suppliers beyond China, Kyodo reported.

The group company of Toyota Motor Corp. will build the plant in Orison State with plans to launch by the end of 2011. The plant will be constructed in collaboration with Indian Rare Earths Ltd., an affiliate of state-owned Nuclear Power Corp. of India, and with Japan's Shin-Etsu Chemical Co. Japan hopes the plant will produce and export 3,000 to 4,000 tons of rare earth elements each year beginning in 2012.

Bolivia: Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan and Bolivian President Eva Morales agreed during a meeting in Tokyo to cooperate on the development of commercial lithium extraction in Bolivia. Japan would like to help Bolivia develop its resources, Kan said.

Japanese Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Akihiro Oat said Japan was prepared to supply technology and infrastructure. Tokyo is also ready to contribute to the development of Bolivia's human resources, Oat said. Morales, who arrived in Tokyo on the 7th and Kan also confirmed their cooperation on a geothermal power plant project in Bolivia. Japan will extend loans to fund that project, Kyodo reported.

Comment: Japan is taking long term action to reduce its dependence on Chinese supplies of rare earth elements, which China chose to manipulate for political purposes during the Senkaku Islands dispute. Japan is implementing its own version of economic colonialism in India and Bolivia to ensure secure supplies in the long run.

South Korea-US-Japan: U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Mullen said North Korea should not mistake South Korean restraint as a lack of resolve nor an invitation for more unprovoked attacks, adding that more U.S.-South Korean joint military drills were planned to deter future acts of North Korean aggression.

Speaking during a joint news conference with his South Korean General Han Min Koo in Seoul, South Korea, Mullen said China appeared unwilling to use its influence over Pyongyang to enact any change in behavior.

Mullen also said the United States has requested Japan to play a greater role in regional stability, suggesting participation in joint exercises with the U.S. and South Korean militaries, Kyodo reported.

Comment: The Japanese government responded to the above statement by acknowledging that Japan recognizes it has a right to collective security, but that it is forbidden by the Japanese constitution. The US CJCS' staff might have reminded the Admiral that he was encouraging Japan to violate a Constitution drafted by the staff of Douglas MacArthur and approved by the General of the Army.

North Korea: The Daily NK - run by defectors -- reported that the North Korean authorities have used recent "people's unit" lectures to reveal news of South Korean maritime live fire exercises and threaten, "If even a single South Chosun shell falls on our territory, we will take Seoul out."

This lecture relates to South Korean military exercises at 27-28 locations on its three coasts from 6 to 12 December.

A source from North Hamkyung Province in far northeastern North Korean reported to
The Daily NK today, "In a people's unit meeting held in a neighborhood of Hoiryeong on the evening of the 5th, the chairwoman of the unit explained the situation, then said, 'In implementing live fire training from the 6th, South Chosun (trans., Korea) is making an open attempt to attack our republic once again, but supposing just one of the puppet's bombs falls on our territory, we will take Seoul out."

"The reason why our People's Army attacked the South Chosun artillery base was because the South Chosun puppet military provoked us first across the West Sea Military Demarcation Line," she went on, before asserting, "The self-defensive measures of our People's Army were a fair reaction."

Comment: The significance of the report is that as of 5 December Party cadre were indoctrinating people's units about the situation without telling them to prepare for war or to adopt tunnel living (a war preparation) or to assume semi-war combat readiness. Interesting.

In time of war preparations, North Hamgyong/Hamkyung Province is a rear area supplier of combat forces on the Demilitarized Zone in the eastern sectors, backing up North Korea's 5th and 1st Army Corps. The absence of instructions about war preparations during indoctrination sessions is a strong indicator that the North's leadership and indoctrination apparatus did not expect an escalation at that time.

North Korea-US: New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson will visit North Korea between 16 and 20 December, US news media reported, statement by Richardson. Richardson said that he is concerned about actions by North Korea that have raised tensions and instability on the Korean Peninsula and that he is visiting as a private citizen and not carrying any messages. US news reported Richardson is traveling at the invitation of the North Korean government.

Comment: The North's invitation and willingness to host Richardson is the strongest political statement yet that the Pyongyang leadership does not now seek a conflict with South Korea and its allies.

Richardson's trip is comparable to applying brakes to the confrontation. It implies that cooler heads have acted to restrain the Young General Kim Jung Eun and his warlike advisors. This is a change that should lead to an easing of tension and possibly an internal North Korean re-evaluation of the heir apparent's judgment.

It does not mean, however, that North Korea will refrain from more shelling, if provoked, or from executing retaliation operations for South Korean propaganda actions, as it announced.

Iraq: For the record. The provincial council of Babil Province, Iraq, has informed U.S. military forces it will place concrete barricades in the road leading to the Bait al Wazir military base in the center of Al Hillah city unless the base is evacuated and surrendered within three weeks to Iraqi security forces, Alsumaria News reported on the 8th.

According to an interview with Babil provincial council member Hamid al Milli, U.S. forces still occupy the base they promised to evacuate as part of a security agreement. The issue was raised in a November meeting between Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and U.S. armed forces commanders, but received no response, al Milli stated

Comment: It seems rather clear some Iraqis, at least, really do want the US forces to leave as agreed. The US opportunity in Iraq has passed for now.

End of NightWatch for 8 December.

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