En Route to New Conflicts (III)

TOKYO/BERLIN | | japan

TOKYO/BERLIN (Own report) - The German Chancellor's trip to Japan, early next week, takes place in the midst of the expansion of military relations between Berlin and Tokyo. Particularly the German Navy is regularly cooperating with its Japanese counterparts, with which it carries out tactical maneuvers at the Horn of Africa. Since some time, army and air force have also been extending their antennas toward Japan. Parallel to Germany's efforts, Great Britain and France have also been intensifying their military policy relationships to Japan. The same goes for NATO, which, just last year signed an "Individual Partnership and Cooperation Programme" with the Japanese government. Already two years ago, German government advisors had recommended that Germany "participate in the USA's political and military re-orientation toward Asia." This would mean the reinforcement of western positions in the direct territorial vicinity of the Peoples Republic of China, with the intention of rolling back its political power. Berlin and the EU also see Japan, the USA's key ally in Asia, as an important partner in their rivalry with Beijing.

The USA's Main Military Partner

German Chancellor Angela Merkel will visit Japan for comprehensive talks at the beginning of next week. Japan is the most important military ally of the United States in the immediate vicinity of the People's Republic of China. "Japan's military cooperation with the USA is very wide-ranging and goes beyond merely joint maneuvers and an exchange of technology and information," writes the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) in a recent study, "Japan is exceptionally engaged in the US missile defense systems development."[1] During the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Tokyo went beyond its habitual financial aid and began supporting the United States "at least logistically and technically" as well. "The revision of the bilateral defense guidelines" should be completed, by the middle of this year, reports the SWP. The objective is the "further enhancement of inter-operability and common military planning." The success of this venture depends on Prime Minister Shinzo Abe being able to amend the Japanese Constitution - which currently does not permit global military operations. In this situation, German Chancellor Merkel also intends to speak with Abe about the new war in Iraq, where the Bundeswehr is being deployed. Tokyo has promised its support, at least financially.

"The Army Stands Ready"

Germany has been reinforcing its contacts to Japan on the military level, since some time, within the framework of expanding military and political relations throughout the entire region of eastern and southeastern Asia. (german-foreign-policy.com reported.[2]) Following an initial visit to that country in 2009 by the German Inspector General and a return visit to Germany by the Commanding General of the Japanese Ground Forces in 2012, the German Inspector General paid a second visit to Japan in April 2013, which he subsequently commented: "The German Army stands ready for closer cooperation with Japan's ground forces."[3] Cooperation between the German Army Training Center in Munster and Japan's Army School of the "Self-Defense Forces" in Fuji are under consideration. The Air Force is also extending its antennas. A delegation from the Air Force Officer Candidate School visited Japan from April 14 - 17, 2014. According to their own information, they had engaged in "expert technical discussions with the flight teaching personnel of the 1st Air Wing of the Japanese Air Self Defense Force (JASDF) at Hamamatsu Air Base.[4]

Tactical Maneuver

Germany and Japan are also reinforcing the cooperation of their navies. For years, a German naval officer has been regularly participating in the "International Cadets' Conference" (ICC) at Japan's "National Defense Academy" in Yokosuka. In the summer of 2013, a German sailor was integrated into the six-week training cruise of a Japanese naval formation which docked in Kiel, in August 2013, where diverse meetings with German military personnel were held. The navies of both countries have been using their engagement in the international anti-piracy struggle at the Horn of Africa, to facilitate their exchange of ideas. Most recently, "a meeting of a special kind," as the German Navy refers to it, took place in mid-December 2014. The frigate "Lübeck" carried out tactical maneuvers - including target practice - with two Japanese destroyers, with the objective, of "promoting the bilateral exchange," according to the German Navy.[5]

Armament Cooperation

Parallel to Berlin's efforts, Paris and London are also intensifying their military policy cooperation with Tokyo. Great Britain and Japan signed an armament cooperation agreement in 2013. During the course of a foreign and defense minister meeting in early 2014, France and Japan furthered their planning for the joint construction of combat material. The EU's three main powers are advancing along this route parallel to one another.

NATO Cooperation

Military cooperation is also taking place within the framework of NATO. This cooperation officially began on July 2, 1990, with the first "NATO-Japan Conference," at which the NATO General Secretary, at the time, Manfred Wörner, (from Germany) received Japan's Foreign Minister at the western war alliance's headquarters in Brussels. Tokyo had provided financial support for NATO's operations in Southeast Europe in the 1990s. After the turn of the century, it was Japan's support for NATO's war in Afghanistan that became the "catalyst" for this cooperation, explained the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) two years ago.[6] Tokyo initiated in 2010, its support for NATO's anti-piracy operation at the Horn of Africa. NATO and Japan agreed on a joint political declaration concretizing the expansion of their cooperation, April 15, 2013. One of the goals was to reinforce cooperation in the field of "maritime security."[7] Then, during Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's visit to NATO headquarters in Brussels, Japan and the war alliance concluded an "Individual Partnership and Cooperation Programme," May 6. 2014. This agreement sets the framework for further intensification of their relationship.

Against China

Already in 2013, the SWP advocated the enhancement of NATO's relations with Japan. The western war alliance should "participate in the USA's political and military reorientation toward Asia," according to the think tank's analysis and "the active cooperation" with Japan "would be essential." There would be "no shift in focus without the participation of other countries in the region."[8] "Countries, such as Australia and Singapore" should participate "in the new partnership offered by the USA," otherwise "the whole operation could quickly be a failure." The enhancement of Germany's military policy relations also to Singapore, lead in that direction.[9] SWP, however, was also advocating the inclusion of China in these new Asian activities: "China's growing military capabilities need not only a counterweight, but also integrative ... measures" in the region. Not only Germany, also the United States is, to a certain extent, cooperating with the People's Republic on a military-political level. The recent conflict with Russia has shown how quickly cooperation with a potential rival - China is a rival but not Japan - can turn into a serious confrontation. NATO is already forging alliances, in the case that conflict with China should one day similarly escalate.

Other information on Berlin's activities in eastern and southeastern Asia can be found here: En Route to New Conflicts (II).

[1] Gudrun Wacker: Sicherheitskooperation in Ostasien. Strukturen, Trends und Leistungsgrenzen. SWP-Studie S 2, Januar 2015.
[2] See En Route to New Conflicts (II).
[3] Inspekteur des Heeres besucht japanische Landstreitkräfte. www.deutschesheer.de 10.05.2013. See Bündnis mit Tradition.
[4] Zu Besuch in Japan. www.luftwaffe.de 23.05.2014.
[5] Japanisch-deutsches Rendezvous auf See. www.einsatz.bundeswehr.de 23.12.2014.
[6] Michael Paul: Die Nato im Fernen Osten. SWP-Aktuell 59, Oktober 2013.
[7] See Between the USA and China.
[8] Michael Paul: Die Nato im Fernen Osten. SWP-Aktuell 59, Oktober 2013.
[9] See En Route to New Conflicts (II).