War Preparations at the Pacific

Tomorrow, German-Japanese government consultations will be held in Tokyo for the first time. Berlin intensifies the Bundeswehr’s Asia-Pacific activities. Japan and USA dramatically boost the region’s militarization.

BERLIN/TOKYO/WASHINGTON (Own report) – For the first time ever, the German government will hold German-Japanese government consultations in Tokyo this weekend with a special focus on expanding bilateral combat exercises at the Pacific. Chancellor Olaf Scholz and six ministers, including Defense Minister Boris Pistorius, will meet for talks with their Japanese counterparts tomorrow to intensify cooperation between the two states. This comes at a time when not only Japan is embarking on a massive arms build-up, increasing its military budget by over 50 percent, and is procuring missiles and cruise missiles that can reach China. The United States as well, is dramatically expanding its military presence in the vicinity of the People’s Republic, amassing its armed forces throughout the first island chain off China’s coast – from Japan via Taiwan to the Philippines – and turning Australia into a sort of rear base of operations for launching eventual attacks on China. Even military bases on small islands in the Pacific are being expanded to secure supplies from the USA for combat in eastern Asia. At the same time, the Bundeswehr is expanding its exercises throughout the entire region.

Government Consultations

With the first German-Japanese government consultations, scheduled to take place in Tokyo tomorrow, Berlin is promoting the expansion of cooperation with Japan, also on the military level. Initial steps have already been taken by the German government more than a decade and a half ago, when the defense minister at the time, Franz Josef Jung, visited the Japanese capital in 2007 to open doors to closer cooperation.[1] This, however, did not bring much. With the power struggle against China intensifying, Germany has stepped up its activities. In April 2021, the foreign and defense ministers of both countries held their first “2+2-format” talks, aimed at greater convergence of their respective foreign and military policies. In April last year, when, Chancellor Olaf Scholz chose Tokyo as the destination of his first trip to Asia following his election, Germany and Japan had agreed on government consultations. In addition to Economics Minister Robert Habeck and Finance Minister Christian Lindner, Foreign Minister Baerbock and Defense Minister Pistorius will also take part.

Unprecedented Militarization

The government consultations are taking place at a time when Japan has embarked on an arms build-up unprecedented since World War II. Japan’s new National Security Strategy, which was published in December 2022, explicitly labels China as the “greatest strategic challenge.”[2] Previously Japan had – at least officially – limited its military activities strictly to self-defense. According to the new strategy Japan needs to develop the capability to carry out “effective counter-strikes against the opponent’s territory.” Japan is thus planning to procure various missiles from abroad or develop them itself. Tokyo wants to improve the radius its own anti-ship missile and procure American Tomahawk cruise missiles with a range of around 1,600 kilometers. The military budget – which, due to self-imposed restrictions initiated in 1976, has remained at one percent of its GDP – will now be increased to two percent. Since military expenditures from other budgetary items are being reallocated to the military budget, the actual increase could amount to slightly more than 1.5 times the current amount. Nearly 42 percent of the population rejects this. More than half criticize the tax increases needed for its financing.[3]

The First Island Chain

Japan’s arms buildup is part of a comprehensive regional militarization, which includes South Korea,[4] but above all, the so-called First Island Chain off the coast of China,[5] extending from Japan’s southern islands – including Okinawa, with its prominent US military bases – via Taiwan and the Philippines to Borneo. The United States has not only initiated significantly closer military ties to Japan. For example, in the future, airports and harbors as well as arms depots will be more jointly used.[6] In addition, the USA is regrouping its military presence on Okinawa to obtain stronger firepower. Washington is rapidly rearming Taiwan and plans to increase the number of military trainers it sends to the southern Chinese island to as many as 200.[7] Recently, the US began again to expand its presence on the Philippines – after having significantly reduced them at the end of the cold war. Now it seeks to build new military facilities, especially at the closest proximity to potential theatres of conflict – in the far north of the main island of Luzon, in the vicinity of Taiwan, and on the elongated Palawan Island in the South China Sea.

Rear Base of Operations

The United States is supplementing its arms buildup on the First Island Chain with the expansion of its military presence in Australia and its intensification of military cooperation with that former British colony. US troops are traditionally in Australia for maneuvers and partially stationed there on a rotation basis.[8] In early December the defense and foreign ministers of the United States and Australia agreed to further expand the presence of US armed forces, including the upgrading of an Air Force base in the north of the country to allow the stationing of up to six B-52 long-range bombers.[9] On Tuesday, Australia, the USA, and Great Britain announced plans to arm Australia with nuclear-powered submarines. Initially, according to these plans, beginning in 2027, when Canberra must begin to gradually decommission its fleet of submarines, US and British nuclear submarines will be temporally stationed in Australia. In the 2030s, Australia will buy between three and five nuclear submarines from the USA. Parallel, the three countries intend to develop new nuclear submarines (“SSN AUKUS”), which will go into construction in the 2040s.[10] The price is estimated at up to AU $368 billion, (€230 billion) over the next 32 years – nearly a quarter of Australia’s current annual military budget.[11]

Stepping Stones across the Pacific

The extent of the USA’s military buildup in the Asia-Pacific can be seen in the fact that the US will have a military buildup even on small Pacific islands. In the tradition of US military strategy, these islands are known as “stepping stones” across the Pacific, among other things, to ensure the logistical supply chain from the USA to the theatre of conflict in the Asia-Pacific. Guam, which is de facto still a US colony, plays a central role. On Guam, US Marines built a new base in January, due to eventually house up to 5,000 US troops. In case of war, these would also have the task of moving as far as possible in the direction of China – armed with anti-ship missiles – to destroy Chinese warships.[12] US bombers will also take off from Guam in the direction of China. On the former US colony Palau – whose military policy is still under US sovereignty – the US military is currently erecting a huge radar installation for the surveillance of the western Pacific.[13] German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock visited Palau last year, to intensify Berlin’s cooperation with that island-nation.[14]

“2025 at War”

In 2021, the frigate Bayern visited Palau and Guam, while on its Asia-Pacific cruise. Currently the Bundeswehr is expanding its maneuvers in the Asia-Pacific region. (german-foreign-policy.com reported.[15]) Pertaining to the rapidly escalating conflict between the United States and China, which is becoming increasingly violent, a senior general of the US military recently declared: “My gut tells me will fight in 2025.”[16]


[1] See also Alte Freunde.

[2],  [3] Alexandra Sakaki: Japans sicherheitspolitische Neuausrichtung. swp-berlin.org 17.02.2023.

[4] See also NATO at the Pacific (II).

[5] See also Militarization of the First Island Chain.

[6] Alexandra Sakaki: Japans sicherheitspolitische Neuausrichtung. swp-berlin.org 17.02.2023.

[7] Nancy A. Youssef, Gordon Lubold: U.S. to Expand Troop Presence in Taiwan for Training Against China Threat. wsj.com 23.02.2023.

[8] See also Der AUKUS-Pakt und die Fregatte Bayern.

[9] Mike Cherney: U.S. Plans Broad Increase of Military Presence in Australia. wsj.com 07.12.2022.

[10] Kathryn Armstrong, Frances Mao, Tom Housden: Aukus deal: US, UK and Australia agree on nuclear submarine project. bbc.co.uk 14.03.2023.

[11] Mick Ryan: Nuclear submarine deal will deeply impact the Australian Defence Force. Has the government got it right? abc.net.au 13.03.2023.

[12] Nancy A. Youssef: New U.S. Base on Guam Is Aimed at Deterring China. wsj.com 26.01.2023.

[13] Stephen Wright: US plans over-the-horizon radar facility in Palau. benarnews.org 11.01.2023.

[14] See also Deutschlands Pazifikambitionen.

[15] See also German Army at the Pacific.

[16] Courtney Kube, Mosheh Gains: Air Force general predicts war with China in 2025, tells officers to prep by firing ‘a clip’ at a target, and ‘aim for the head’. nbcnews.com 27.01.2023.