Japan Institute for National Fundamentals

Speaking out

Fumio Ota

【#559】Is Japan Playing Roles as a U.S. Ally?

Fumio Ota / 2018.12.06 (Thu)

December 3, 2018

     In October when U.S. Vice President Mike Pence gave a speech clarifying Washington’s attitude of confrontation with Beijing, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited China and voiced opposing hope to upgrade Japan-China relationship “from competition to cooperation”.
     Chinese Premier Li Keqiang welcomed “Japan’s participation” in the Belt and Road Initiative designed to expand China’s global influence. Just after these events, Christian Whiton, a former Department of State official who has authored “Smart Power,” published an article titled “Why Japan’s Outreach to China Will Fail” in the National Interest magazine. The article should be interpreted as indicating the U. S.’ frustration with Japan’s China policy.

Japan failing to cooperate in an information war against China
     On November 23, The Wall Street Journal reported that the U.S. government had asked allies to refrain from using products of Huawei Technologies Co., a Chinese information technology company suspected to have close relations with the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, because of these products’ problems with information security. Huawei products have been banned within the U.S. government. In Australia, even private companies have decided not to use Huawei products. Five days later, New Zealand barred Huawei from its 5G next-generation wireless network. Any such measure has not been taken in Japan.
     The Hudson Institute, where Vice President Pence made the China policy speech, released a report earlier this year urging Washington to invite Japan to accede to the Five Eyes agreement for sharing wiretapping information among the United States, Britain, Australia, Canada and New Zealand. In October, former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and other experts on Japan also recommended that Japan join the Five Eyes agreement, but on condition that Japan adopts satisfactory information security measures.
     In Australia that enacted an anti-espionage law to clamp down on foreign espionage in June, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute has released a report how Chinese students and scholars are trying to steal military technology from the West. Japan has not established even an anti-espionage law.

Japan is less alert to technology outflow
     In June, the U.S. Department of State shortened the validity period of visa from five years to one year for Chinese graduate students who study robotics and other cutting-edge technologies in the United States. On the contrary, Japan for its part has eased visa requirements for Chinese. While U.S. universities are revisiting tie-ups with Chinese universities due to concerns about advanced technology information to be stolen, the Tokyo Institute of Technology, a leading Japanese university of science and technology, has taken no action to revise its tie-up with China’s Tsinghua University.
     The Confucius Institute, an educational institution abroad run by the Chines government, has been suspected as a spying and propaganda organ, being forced to close branches in the U. S. However, no such move is seen in Japan.
     Prior to the Group of 20 Summit in Argentina, it was reported that Prime Minister Abe and U.S. President Donald Trump would agree to closely coordinate their China policies. When Washington decided to go only with a fine on China’s ZTE Corp. for its illegal acts, however, the U.S. Congress made a complaint. ZTE is another Chinese information technology company alleged to have close relations with the PLA. If Japan fails to take appropriate actions overlooking the fact that the U.S.-China confrontation has expanded into a national level, not limited only between their top leaders, it may tread on the tail of the American tiger.

Fumio Ota is a senior fellow and a Planning Committee member at the Japan Institute for National Fundamentals and a former Director of Defense Intelligence Headquarters in Japan Defense Agency.