Arms Buildup Against China

BERLIN/TOKYO/SEOUL | | japansuedkorea

BERLIN/TOKYO/SEOUL (Own report) - Berlin is expanding its military and arms industry cooperation with the People's Republic of China's East Asian rivals. A few days ago, the German and Japanese defense ministries signed an agreement to intensify their "cooperation in the defense technology sector." For years, the German arms industry has been seeking to enhance its standing on Tokyo's arms market, which is continuously expanding, primarily due to the power struggle with Beijing. Cooperation is also growing between the armed forces of Germany and Japan. The German Armed Forces Staff College in Hamburg recently concluded an agreement to this effect. Cooperation with the South Korean military is likewise being intensified. Seoul, one of the German arms industry's most important customers, has already placed South Korean warships at the disposal of the EU's operation in the war on piracy at the Horn of Africa.

Tensions in East Asia

For years, Berlin has been seeking to enhance its cooperation with Tokyo in the field of military policy and arms industry, because of the growing tensions in East Asia. On the one hand, the conflict between the West and North Korea is escalating,[1] and on the other, the USA and - to a lesser degree - the EU have taken up a power struggle with China for influence in the South and East China Seas.[2] Japan, the USA's closest ally in the region, is cooperating with NATO and is considered the key ally for the West in East Asia's escalating conflicts. Japan is, itself, engaged in a massive arms buildup. Prime Minister Shinzō Abe has increased - for the fifth consecutive year - the current fiscal year's military budget, seeks to abolish the article of the constitution, forbidding foreign military operations and has also embarked on a strongly nationalist course. (german-foreign-policy.com reported.[3]) The German establishment welcomes and supports these developments. During his visit to Japan in November 2016, the outgoing German President Joachim Gauck had appealed to the Japanese population - still very opposed to the constitutional change - to approve the militarization of their country.[4]

"Course for Senior Officials" in Tokyo

The German government's systematically pursued military cooperation with Japan covers several fields. Both countries' navies are mutually making regular visits, have carried out joint tactical maneuvers and have dispatched military personnel to participate in each others training cruises. The parallel deployments in the war on piracy at the Horn of Africa - Japan is also participating - help facilitate the improvement of their relations. For years, intentions of enhancing cooperation between the armed forces have been expressed, albeit without decisive progress. Between the Air Force and medical corps of Germany and Japan closer contacts have at least been initiated. The German Armed Forces Staff College in Hamburg and Japan's Joint Staff College in Tokyo agreed in early June, to make regular exchanges for military training, which will be stabilized through mutual visits.[5] The German Federal College for Security Studies (BAKS) is intensifying its contacts to Japan's National Institute for Defense Studies (NIDS) - for example, within the framework of its "Course for Senior Officials," whose participants regularly visit Tokyo.

With German Smoothbore Guns

For years, German arms manufacturers have also been seeking better access to the Japanese arms market, which promises attractive profits, due to the growing Japanese defense budget. Until now, Germany's arms exports to Japan have been very limited. German companies have been able to land small deals, for example, Rheinmetall equipped the Japanese Type 9 and Type 10 battle tanks with 120-mm smoothbore guns. However, annual German arms exports to Japan have stagnated at only a double digit million. Already in 2011, German arms manufacturers were pushing Berlin to open the "traditionally rather closed Japanese market" for their products,[6] so far, without much success. At the beginning of 2015, the governments of both countries initiated talks on an agreement, signed July 17, 2017. According to the defense ministry, the agreement creates the "framework for cooperation in the sector of defense technology."[7] Japan is particularly interested in faster tanks that can serve as troop transport carriers for Japan's outlying islands, as reported in Japanese media.[8]

Submarines, Cruise Missiles, Ammunition...

Unlike Japan, South Korea - also a close US military ally, where large US military contingents are stationed - has, for years, been one of Germany's most important military hardware customers outside the EU and NATO. From 2001 to 2012 alone, German arms exports to South Korea totaled €4.4 billion. Since then they have leveled off between €200 and €500 million annually. HDW Class 214 submarines are an important item in South Korean procurements from Germany. Nine of these submarines are being built under HDW license, on the basis of German design and with German supplies at South Korean shipyards. Seoul has also bought Patriot anti-aircraft missiles and is purchasing German Taurus KEPD 350K air-to-surface cruise missiles. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), between 2012 and 2016, Germany was South Koreas second largest major weapons systems supplier. South Korea also buys German firearms - for example, Heckler and Koch automatic rifles, as well as large quantities of German ammunition.

Operating for the EU

Berlin is now obviously seeking also closer cooperation between the armies of both countries. South Korean officers are already participating in courses for generals and admirals at the German Armed Forces Staff College in Hamburg. A larger delegation of the Joint Forces Military University from Daejeon is visiting the German College once a year for professional consultations. In return, a delegation of the Airborne Brigade 1 in Saarlouis visited South Korea from June 17 to 24. "The exchange of specialists for joint training at German and South Korean training institutions" could "further deepen" relations between the armed forces of both countries, according to the head of the Bundeswehr delegation, Lieutenant Colonel Jürgen Auweiler, who praised the "exceptional discipline" of the South Korean soldiers.[9] The South Korean navy is already participating in EU military operations on the legal basis of the Framework Participation Agreement with the EU, ratified by Seoul on November 3, 2016. The German foreign ministry noted that, in March, South Korea had placed its "warships operating at the Horn of Africa at the disposal of the EU Atalanta-Mission" [10] - with the Choi Young destroyer joining the EU operation. Brussels is thus extending its warfare potential.

[1] See Das Jahr der Entscheidung.
[2] See Ostasiens Mittelmeer (I), Ostasiens Mittelmeer (II) and War Exercises in the Pacific.
[3] See Partners at the Pacific.
[4] See Der Militarisierungshelfer.
[5] Inka v. Puttkamer: Mit vertiefter Zusammenarbeit in die gemeinsame Zukunft. www.fueakbw. 03.07.2017.
[6] See Arbeitsaufträge an den Bundespräsidenten.
[7] Rüstungsabkommen: Japan an deutscher Panzertechnologie interessiert (Nachtrag). augengeradeaus.net 19.07.2017.
[8] Ryo Aibara: Japan quietly inks deal with Germany on defense sharing. www.asahi.com 19.07.2017.
[9] Luftlandebrigade 1 zum ersten Mal in Südkorea. www.deutschesheer.de 17.07.2017.
[10] ROKS Choi Young joins counter-piracy operation Atalanta. navaltoday.com 03.03.2017.