Posted on November 1, 2006
An arms race: *
Nearly 50 warships crowded the bay just south of Tokyo, all flying the Rising Sun flag. Sea-to-sea missiles roared off the decks of several destroyers, and submarines emerged like a pod of whales from the surf.
More than an exercise, this was a message: In Asia’s accelerating arms race, Japan is determined not to fall behind.
“The security environment surrounding our nation has changed dramatically in recent years,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told the sailors aboard this destroyer after watching Japan’s annual fleet review Sunday. “I believe this is an excellent opportunity to demonstrate our readiness.”
Though in the planning for months, the fleet review — Japan’s biggest show of its military might each year — comes after North Korea shocked the region with the Oct. 9 announcement that it had conducted its first nuclear test.
This could get out of hand pretty quickly. With all of the capacity lying latent within the second largets GDP in the world, the Japanese have no intention of lying supine beneath a North Korean nuclear threat. As a relatively homogeneous society, they are capable of great political agility once a new consensus has gelled. A consensus to re-arm and re-assert, for example. Maybe even re-write the pacifist elements of their US-imposed constitution.
Other governments in the region have bad memories of the last time Japan asserted itself militarily on the regional stage – not least Beijing, a regime that has abandoned the political philosophy underpinning its previous claim to legitimacy and who, lacking any other moral form of ensuring their continued ascendency, now nurses 70-year old nationalist grudges to maintain their grip on a restless society.
Anyone else up for a ride on the tiger? Government warning: Getting on is the easy part.
** Original link gone; replaced – Ed.