Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Japan Puts a Marker Down in Europe

The last few years have seen Japan take the very welcome steps out of the box her post-WWII constitution put her in and the habits of the post war generations.

With her size and wealth, even her 1% of GDP on defense created a significant military. As anyone who has operated can attest, it is a quality one in equipment, training, and material condition.

It's growing - and that is a good thing for the international order.

More than is apparent to the outside eye, her national security community – both uniformed and civilian – are very clear-eyed about the world in which they find themselves in 2023. They are taking steps to take her rightful and deserved place in the first tier of nations in national security, but they are small, direct, and cautious steps - but steps they are.

With all the above, the last few days brought a very significant moment for Japan and her friends. While most eyes were on the meeting between Russia’s Putin and the People’s Republic of China’s Xi, we had this;

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida met Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Tuesday in Kyiv, in a rare and unannounced visit that highlighted Japan's support for the war-torn country in the face of Russia's ongoing invasion.

The Japanese leader arrived in the Ukrainian capital on Tuesday afternoon local time by rail from neighboring Poland, becoming the final Group of Seven leader to visit the country since Russia's Feb. 24, 2022, invasion.

This is not just a photo op - this is a significant moment in Japan's ongoing evolution in to a proper 21st Century nation with responsibilities and the ability to help advance the cause of a more democratic planet.

Japan has not made such a statement with regards to events in Europe - I believe - since the presence of the 2nd Special Squadron in combat operations in the  Mediterranean WWI. 

That matters.

The next G7 Meeting is in Japan ... in a certain city of mention, Hiroshima;

"The world was astonished to see innocent civilians in Bucha killed one year ago. I really feel great anger at the atrocity upon visiting that very place here," Kishida said.

"I would like to give condolence to the all victims and the wounded on behalf of the Japanese nationals. Japan will keep aiding Ukraine with the greatest effort to regain peace," he added.

Earlier Tuesday, Japan's Foreign Ministry said Kishida would convey the “solidarity and unwavering support for Ukraine” of Japan and other G7 nations during the meeting while “firmly rejecting Russia's aggression and unilateral attempts to change of the status quo by force.”


"The situation in Ukraine and support for the country will be a major theme at the G7 Hiroshima summit,” NHK quoted LDP Secretary-General Toshimitsu Motegi as saying ahead of Kishida's arrival in Kyiv on Tuesday, saying it was "of great significance" that the prime minister "sees the situation on the ground firsthand.”

Not just Ukraine, the Japanese Prime Minister is sending a message by who he visits;

Kishida, who had been visiting India and was expected to return to Tokyo, entered Poland from India using a secretly chartered plane instead of the standard government aircraft, NHK reported.

Poland. India. Yes.

Japan continues to underline that she is part of the group of nations who will not allow Russia and China set a new global order.

Nothing in the diplomatic world is done by accident - especially when location and timing matter a lot for the unspoken messaging.

The decision to visit Ukraine came at an unusual — and perhaps fortuitous — time for Kishida, with Chinese leader Xi Jinping simultaneously in Moscow for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, ostensibly over Beijing’s proposal for a ceasefire between the neighbors.

Xi’s trip, his first abroad since winning an unprecedented third term as leader earlier this month, came just days after the International Criminal Court accused Putin of war crimes and issued a warrant for his arrest.

While Xi has sought to portray China as a potential peacemaker, even as he deepens relations with Putin, the two visits by the leaders of the world’s second— and third-largest economies served as a reminder of Tokyo’s robust support for Kyiv and Beijing’s ”no-limits” relationship with Moscow.

In Tokyo, U.S. Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel said the day’s news told of “two very different European Pacific partnerships.”

“Prime Minister Kishida is making an historic visit to Ukraine to protect the Ukrainian people and promote the universal values enshrined in the U.N. Charter,” Emanuel tweeted. “Approximately 900 kilometers away, a different and more nefarious partnership is taking shape in Moscow.”

Meanwhile, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Weibin took aim at Kishida’s trip, saying that China “hopes Japan will push for an easing of the situation (in Ukraine), and not the other way around.”

Separately, Russia sent two strategic bombers over the Sea of Japan for about seven hours Tuesday, the country's Defense Ministry said. Moscow regularly sends the bombers, which are capable of carrying nuclear weapons, for missions in international airspace as a show of strength, but the timing was seen as more pointed with Kishida's trip.

A strong statement by Japan that is getting exactly the response you'd like. The response from the usual suspects means it matters.

Japanese defense planners and a number of senior lawmakers have been wary of the threat of conflict over Taiwan. Many have said a Taiwan emergency would also be an emergency for Japan.

These fears that Japan could be unprepared for a crisis in its own backyard have prompted Tokyo to pursue a dramatic hike in defense spending as well as closer ties with allies and partners.

The timing of the two visits could give more ammunition to claims that Tokyo and Washington sit firmly on one side of an increasingly divided world, while Beijing and Moscow find themselves on another.

“The coincidental timing of the trips does indeed create a stark contrast,” said Brown. “It presents the image of two blocs, with Japan and Ukraine on the side of democracy, and Russia and China representing an axis of authoritarianism.”

There are two blocks in the international world set in opposition, and the "realist" thing to do is accept that central fact.

We also need to accept that fact that "we" failed to win the post-Cold War peace.   

If you have not already, I highly encourage you to watch this 1992 interview with former President Nixon. If you have time, watch the whole thing - but this bit on Russia is spot on;

In the last decade of the 20th Century and the first decade of the 21st, Russia did not join the West. There was no "Peaceful Rise of China." The Smartest People in the Room™ failed us ... or it was a counter-historical fool's errand anyway. Pick whichever reason best fits your priors.

We have the 2023 that we have. We might as well crack-on with the slog.

Our friends are better than their friends anyway.

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