Scare with Trump: Japan plays the North Korean crisis in its own interests

Author : Georgiy Kuhaleyshvili

The United States makes it clear that if the Chinese leadership is unable to force Kim Jong-un to a constructive dialogue, then the US will act independently in the Asia-Pacific region, relying on the support of its traditional partners, Japan and South Korea
10:59, 28 April 2017

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Japan supports American "muscle flexion" with regard to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK). Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe suggested that the US deploy THAAD anti-missile systems on its territory to intercept North Korean missiles. In April, at the Japanese Iwakuni air base, the US Air Force conducted exercises of unremarkable F-35B fifth-generation fighter-bombers to prepare for "various scenarios", including for air strikes on the territory of North Korea. In the coming years, Japan's Self-Defense Forces intend to purchase 42 such aircrafts. This year, the US plans to deploy in Japan a universal amphibious assault ship of the "America" class, from the deck of which the military aircraft F-35B can be launched. Two Japanese destroyers took part in the exercises with a naval group led by the aircraft carrier Carl Vinson in the Pacific.

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Japan's Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba is convinced that his country would use force as self-defense in case of aggression from North Korea. Director of the Department of Asia and the Pacific of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan Kenji Kanasugi stressed that there is a danger of even more provocative actions on the part of the DPRK, and in this case, Japan, the United States, and South Korea agreed to strengthen deterrent measures against North Korea. This statement was made by a Japanese diplomat on the eve of a briefing on the North Korean issue at the White House with the participation of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Secretary of Defense James Mattis, National Intelligence Director Dan Coats, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joseph Dunford and 100 US senators.

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The North Korean nuclear missile program does cause concern for the Japanese government. During the latest tests, four North Korean ballistic missiles fell into the sea 300 kilometers from the Japanese coast. The territory of Japan falls into the radius of shelling North Korean missiles with nuclear warheads. However, Japan does not have a powerful army since the end of World War II. Japan's self-defense forces are not comparable in number to the Chinese or North Korean army. In ensuring its security, Japan relies on the United States. American military bases are located on the territory of the country of the rising sun. Japan's offensive against North Korea is designed to achieve other goals, in addition to restraining the aggressive ambitions of Kim Jong-un, the supreme leader of the DPRK.

The Chinese side of the problem

The United States and Japan jointly demonstrate strength to induce China to take more resolute action against the DPRK. At a meeting in Florida, Chinese President Xi Jinping promised his American counterpart Donald Trump to help resolve the North Korean problem and convince Kim Jong-un to stop voluntarily developing nuclear weapons and missile carriers. However, Chinese diplomacy proved ineffective. In response to China's calls not to provoke the US to use military force, North Korea has not changed its course of action. DPRK said it would continue to test missiles despite the condemnation of the international community. North Korean authorities are threatening to launch nuclear missile strikes on the territory of Australia, to sink the American aircraft carrier Carl Vinson. According to the South Korean media, the DPRK military recently held artillery exercises near the border with South Korea and the demilitarized zone. This is a hint that if necessary, North Korea is ready to shell the settlements of South Korea. In DPRK, Chinese warnings are not taken seriously. The North Korean agency KCNA published information that China is threatened with "catastrophic consequences" if the country "dances to someone else's tune."


The aircraft carrier "Carl Vinson"

China does not exert proper pressure on the North Korean side. Limiting supplies of North Korean coal from China as a sanction is a political farce. According to resource 38 North, the volumes of coal that North Korea usually exports to China (an average of 1.4-1.2 million tons per month) fit into the limits set by UN Security Council resolution #2321. China has not cut off the supply of energy resources and food to North Korea. North Koreans depend on the supply of food and energy from China. The Chinese leadership is obstructing the demonstration of the US force and is opposed to the deployment of anti-missile complexes THAAD in South Korea and Japan. According to the Chinese Communists, these complexes can be aimed not only at stopping North Korea, but also at intercepting China's nuclear warheads. It is advantageous for China to freeze the nuclear program of the DPRK and maintain the regime of Kim Jong-un in a country that is a buffer between China and South Korea and Japan, where American troops are stationed. China fears of an influx of refugees if an armed conflict erupts in North Korea.

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The White House is counting on the fact that cooperation between the United States and Japan in solving the North Korean problem will affect China as a "red rag". Beijing and Tokyo have close economic ties. In 2014, Japan became the second trade and economic partner of China after the United States (trade turnover - $ 340 billion). Despite this, China and Japan are political competitors and to varying degrees claim to regional leadership in the Asia-Pacific region (APR): Japan in conjunction with the US, and China - independently. Between China and Japan, there is a territorial dispute around the Senkaku Islands in the South China Sea, where there are reserves of natural gas (200 billion cubic meters). These islands together with the island of Okinawa were included in Japan in 1895 after the capture of the island of Taiwan from China. Then the islands were occupied by the United States during the Second World War and after its end was handed over to Japan without taking into account the interests of communist China. Chinese warships often conduct maneuvers around the Senkaku islands, demonstrating strength to the Japanese side. China does not recognize Japan's right to create a 200-mile economic zone around the small atoll of Okinotori. Japan is trying to increase the area of the island by artificial coral plantations. In the historical memory of the Chinese, the events of the Japanese-Chinese war of 1937-45 were not yet erased. (Japan's aggression on the territory of China). Then, from 3 to 7 million Chinese military men and 17.5 civilians were killed.

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The United States makes it clear to Beijing that without effective assistance from China in containing the DPRK's nuclear missile program, the United States has no choice but to interact with traditional partners in the Asia-Pacific region, such as Japan, even as a regional competitor of the Middle Kingdom. If the Chinese side is not able to force Kim Jong-un to peace, then the US will act independently in the APR, without taking into account the Chinese interests. By its reluctance to exert pressure on the DPRK, China discredits itself as a regional leader. The development and testing of the DPRK nuclear charges and ballistic missiles is a regional problem, from the solution of which China actually withdraws, giving way to the role of the US and Japan. China is not ready to use military force against the DPRK, even if circumstances require.

Japanese warning to China and Russia

Japan supports tough US measures against North Korea, up to the use of military force, in order to remind China that in case of further territorial claims to the Senkaku Islands, Beijing could become the object of Washington's pressure. By joint naval maneuvers with American ships, Japan emphasizes its status as a "key ally outside NATO" and its commitment to the provisions of the Treaty on Mutual Cooperation and Security of 1960. According to this document, the United States and Japan pledge to jointly respond to external threats. The threat to Japan is equivalent to a threat to the United States, and vice versa. Today Japan helps the US to prevent a nuclear threat, which, according to American politicians, comes from North Korea. Tomorrow the US will have to help Japan to rebuff China if the Communists attempt to resolve territorial disputes by military methods.


Open source

Japan and Russia are arguing for the Kuril Islands

The Japanese side sends a similar hint to Russia, which has not yet signed a peace treaty after the end of World War II and there is a territorial dispute around the South Kuril Islands (Habomai, Shikotan, Iturup, Kunashir). Japan also participates in anti-Russian sanctions and does not support Russia's aggression in Ukraine. Recently, there has been progress in Japanese-Russian relations, and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe received Russian President Vladimir Putin on a visit. They discussed possible options for joint economic activities in the Southern Kuriles, so that the Japanese can freely visit depressed islands and derive economic benefits from them. Since Russia's behavior is unpredictable, and the position of the Russian leadership is changing like the weather in the ocean, Japan's support for the tough US line against the DPRK makes it clear that if Moscow obstructs the use of the South Kuriles for economic purposes, Washington will support Tokyo's position. The Kremlin has maintained ties with the North Korean leadership since Soviet times. The late father Kim Jong Yin, the "great leader" of the DPRK Kim Jong Il, repeatedly visited Russia on the armored train. By exerting pressure on the DPRK, the United States and Japan indirectly demonstrate the strength of Russia.

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China will take a revenge?

It is widely believed that if the US goes to exacerbate relations with China on contentious issues, including about the North Korean problem, then China will formalize a military-political alliance with Russia in the Far East as a counterweight to the US and its allies. However, China does not do this even when there is a stronger reason for confrontation with the United States. Prior to the inauguration, President Donald Trump spoke on the phone with Taiwanese President Cai Inven, who supports the course for the independence of the island and does not want to return to the composition of communist China. This conversation contradicted the "one China policy", when after the establishment of diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China (PRC), the countries stop political contacts with the authorities of Taiwan. The island of Taiwan left China and is the successor of the Republic of China overthrown by the Communists in 1949.

Nevertheless, China took a neutral position even after the shelling of the US military airfield Shayrat army of President Bashar Assad in Syria. China did not support Russia, which condemned the United States. Russia is interesting for China solely as an economic partner, raw materials base and a potential supplier of natural gas. It is unprofitable for China to spoil relations with the United States because of North Korea purely from the economic point of view. America is the main foreign economic partner of the PRC. The trade turnover between China and the United States is 579 billion dollars (with Russia - 69.5 billion dollars in 2016).

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Until China begins to exert strong pressure on the DPRK, the North Korean problem will not be solved. It is one thing when pressure is exerted on the DPRK by the United States and Japan, which are presented by North Korean propagandists as an "external threat." It is quite another matter if China pulled its warships to the banks of the DPRK and demanded that Kim Jong-un immediately abandon the development of nuclear weapons and test ballistic missiles. Under any circumstances Pyongyang is unprofitable with the worsening of relations with Beijing, on which the economic survival of the DPRK depends. China accounts for 70% of North Korea's total trade.

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