In my previous article on the future of Japanese air power, I mentioned several other non-air programs which are currently upgrading, and will continue to harden, Japan’s local and immediately adjacent area. I spelled out a bit of the details of Japan’s increased defense spending, and how that spending would herald a tech-focused military far beyond the scope of anything that country has ever possessed.
That last article concentrated specifically on what they were doing to upgrade *their* security posture; make *themselves* a hardened target. But as they make way for all that new gear and tech, I asked myself, “What are they doing with their old stuff?”
Great question! I’m glad you asked, self.
In the same week Japan announced all this whiz-bang new stuff they are doing/will do for themselves, somewhat lower on the global news feed the Philippines announced receiving the first of ten former Japanese Coast Guard vessels. This vessel is a 144-foot patrol vessel, with full maritime security capabilities. The PI have been pretty explicit about these craft *not* being combat craft. These vessels will also be capable of attending to disaster relief and humanitarian assistance in the region. (A mission Japan has been heavily involved with for decades.)
Japan has zero claim on the waterways or ocean floors that China has been easing its tip into in the South China Sea over the last several years, but *is* obviously invested in keeping that entire zone free of Chinese fuckery. This is their way of doing that, while maintaining an overt posture of non-direct engagement with China. All the while building positive relationships with all the other countries in the region who don’t fully appreciate China’s presence in their waters.
China claims the *entire* South China Sea. The Hague and international legal community begs to differ. (Not that a few legal notices and rhetorical teeth suckings are going to phase the PRC’s expansion.) This nearly 1.5 million square mile swath of ocean is [also] claimed in part by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam. Aside from the mineral and oil/gas deposits believed to lay beneath the seafloor, this seaway sees more than $5 trillion in maritime trade every year.
Furthermore, as mentioned above, Japan is not transferring just one maritime patrol vessel to the PI, they’re transferring ten. Assume they are all the same type, with minor mods. AND…just to show they really do care about maneuvering everyone in this area against this already out of control threat to the region, the Japanese are also in talks with the PI regarding two more Coast Guard vessels. These two are twice the size of the other ten (295 feet), with far greater capabilities and reach (including single-mounted Mk44 Bushmaster II 30mm autocannons with laser-optical fire-control systems). Along with these other ships, these recent talks also include four TC-90 ISR aircraft (also known as Beechcraft King Airs).
So that is what’s happening there in the Philippines, with the Japanese.
Further afield, Japan has been strengthening its ties with Vietnam. Japan, since you probably didn’t know, is Vietnam’s single greatest donor. Not just monetarily…Japanese peacekeepers have been in Vietnam and Cambodia since regional restrictions were lifted by the UN in the early 90s. They were the first country on scene for peacekeeping, investing, and nation-building. And even with the loss of Japanese personnel, the Japanese government has only increased activity in the region. Recently, they have started the same type of talks with Vietnam that the PI had, that led to the upgrade in maritime security. Tokyo has vowed to strengthen Vietnam through vessels, equipment, and training.
Busy boys. Busy little beavers…
So, for those of you who remember–and those of you who have studied–*this* is how this kind of a thing begins: by, with, and through proxies within proxies. (And the U.S. is happy to let it happen, as it alleviates several of our responsibilities in the region.)
Strap in, everyone. Welcome to the new Cold War.
Featured image courtesy of blogs.wsj.com