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Fumio Ota

【#510(Special)】Expectations on Japan Seen in Congressional Testimony

Fumio Ota / 2018.04.26 (Thu)

April 23, 2018

     While Japanese opposition parties and media were focusing on the vice finance minister’s reported sexual harassment and a Self-Defense Forces officer’s insulting remark to an opposition party lawmaker last week, two U.S. military leaders who exert great influence on the international military situation made congressional testimony.

U.S. Pacific Commander nominee supports “strong Japan”
     One is Navy Adm. Philip Davidson who has been nominated as Commander, U.S. Pacific Command. He had been a midshipman when I was an exchange instructor at the U.S. Naval Academy.
     In his testimony on April 17, Adm. Davidson said, “What is crucial to the Alliance and the security of the Indo-Pacific is not so much that Japan increases the level of Host Nation Support contributions, but rather invests additional funds to increase their own services’ capacity and capability in the modern threat environment.”
     Most of U.S. military leaders with whom I had contacts hoped for a “weak Japan,” urging Japan to focus on defensive capabilities such as anti-submarine warfare while the United States would have striking power. Adm. Davidson could be the first U.S. senior military officer who officially asked Japan to enhance defense capabilities while hoping for a “strong Japan.”
     “There is no guarantee that the United States would win a future conflict with China,” he also said in a manner to emphasize the Chinese military’s remarkable buildup in recent years.

No longer almighty U.S. forces
     The other is Air Force Lt. Gen. Samuel Greaves, director of the Missile Defense Agency. In his congressional testimony on the same day, Lt. Gen. Greaves said the present missile defense system could not detect hypersonic missiles that China and Russia would deploy soon and that space sensors should be urgently introduced to detect them.
     As for hypersonic missiles, the then Bush administration announced the Prompt Global Strike initiative in the beginning of this century. However, the U.S. hypersonic missile development project stagnated under compulsory budget cuts, known as the sequester, during the Obama administration. In the meantime, China and Russia obtained the idea and relevant technologies through cybertheft and other means and developed the missiles ahead of the United States.
     These congressional testimonies indicate that the United States’ military supremacy is on the brink of collapse, leading Washington to hope for a strong Japan rather than a weak Japan that it had favored.
     In the wake of the congressional testimony, Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera visited Washington amid opposition parties’ objection to the visit and met with U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis on April 20. Sitting on the right side of Mattis at the meeting was Randall Schriver, assistant secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific security affairs, who had been president of the Project 2049 Institute, a think tank, until last year. Late last month, the institute released a report, warning that the Chinese People’s Liberation Army is preparing for a “short, sharp war” to attack the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea.

Fumio Ota is a JINF Planning Committee Member and retired Vice Admiral of Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force.