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Security expansion begins with Australia

  • 2015-07-13 15:00:00
  • , Asahi
  • Translation

(Asahi: July 12, 2015 – p.2)

 

 Scores of reconnaissance boats with soldiers in different camouflage uniforms on board that that were on standby off shore arrived at the beach one after another. The first wave is the Australian military, the second and the third are the U.S. Marine Corps, and the fourth one is Japan’s Self-Defense Forces (SDF). After landing, words for assuring the strategy are exchanged between the U.S. military and SDF. Then, the soldiers move toward the inland being vigilant about an “enemy” who invaded the island.

 

 Fog Bay is located in northern Australia. The SDF participated for the first time in “Talisman Saber,” a joint military exercise between the U.S. and Australia. Its landing operation was opened to the press on July 11. About 40 Ground Self-Defense Force (GSDF) members specialized for defending an isolated island participated in the exercise. The exercise commander, Lt. Col Kazuo Amanai (47), said, “We will deepen the relationship through this exercise in the vast land of Australia that we cannot conduct in Japan.”

 

 The SDF’s participation symbolizes the closer relationship between Japan and Australia. To Japan, Australia is an ally the same as the U.S. To Canberra, while China is economically important as an export counterpart to receive resources from Australia, Tokyo and Canberra share a common security threat posed by China’s maritime advancement from the East China Sea and the South China Sea to the Pacific.

 

 The closeness between the state heads is also remarkable. Immediately after taking office in September 2013, Prime Minister Abbott called Japan “A close friend of Asia.” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Abbott call each other by their first names, “Tony” and “Shinzo.” Abe’s remark “We exchange opinions once in three months” illustrates their closeness.

 

 One of the sites used in the exercise that will continue until July 21 is Australia’s northern territory. The U.S. Marine Corps began deploying in 2012 in the capital of Darwin. Beginning with about 200 soldiers, the number has increased to the current 1,150, and is expected to reach 2,500 next year. The increase is associated with the U.S. policy focusing on Asia, bearing China in mind.

 

 The primary reason for GSDF to participate in the exercise is that the Abe administration is attempting to respond to the U.S. strategy in the form of expanding security cooperation. In response to a press inquiry from the Asahi Shimbun, the U.S. Pacific Fleet replied, “In order to prepare for an unpredictable situation in the real world, the SDF unit decided to participate in the exercise,” expecting Japan to expand its role.

 

 Being surrounded by water, Australia traditionally attaches importance to the naval power. The defense budget for 2015 is $26.8 billion (2.45 trillion yen), nearly half of Japan’s defense budget.

 

 As the existing submarines are deteriorating and inefficient, updating its submarine fleet is a challenge, which made Canberra look to Japan. What is attractive to Australia is the interoperability with the U.S. military. in which if the U.S. combat system is loaded, no flaw will reportedly happen.

 

 A former high-ranking official of the Australia’s Defense Department Ross Babbage said: “The U.S.-Australia military relationship is stronger than the Japan-U.S. one with almost perfect interoperability among army, navy, and the air force. Seamless military operations are possible in the South China Sea and the Middle East.”

 

 “This is the first step in engraving the ‘special relationship’ in our histories,” said Abe in July last year when he visited Australia and moved a step closer to joint research on submarine technology. Abe’s cabinet rescinded in April last year Japan’s three principles regarding arms exports and decided on the Three Principles on Transfer of Defense Equipment and Technology, which allows Japan to export arms to and undertake joint development with a country other than the U.S.

 

 A submarine called the “ninja of the ocean” requires stealth characteristics that make its movement undetectable. Submarines of Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force (MSDF) are superior in stealth capability. They have been improved in response to the rough seas in the Pacific and Sea of Japan.

 

 The MSDF opened to the public last year its advanced submarine in Kure City, Hiroshima Prefecture. The submarine is 84 meter long with a standard displacement of 2,950 tons. Despite being one of the largest non-nuclear powered submarines, it excels in quietness and has a short turning radius.

 

 However, there are voices in Australia that support Germany and France, Japan’s rivals, as its partner for the joint development of submarine by saying: “Germany and France actively support building submarines in Australia, which creates employment in the country. If the government selects Japan as its partner, Tokyo will bring the completed product to Australia, which will increase unemployment.”

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