Japanese General Calls on US Military to Confront China

Marine Commandant Gen. James F. Amos greets Gen. Kiyofumi Iwata, Japan Ground Self-Defense Force, at the Iwoto Air Station on the island of Iwo Jima on March 19, 2014. Sgt. Mallory S. VanderSchans/Marine Corps
Marine Commandant Gen. James F. Amos greets Gen. Kiyofumi Iwata, Japan Ground Self-Defense Force, at the Iwoto Air Station on the island of Iwo Jima on March 19, 2014. Sgt. Mallory S. VanderSchans/Marine Corps

In stark contrast to White House policy, a top Japanese general on Tuesday said the U.S. military rebalance of forces to the Pacific should confront Chinese aggression in the region.

Japanese Gen. Kiyofumi Iwata, chief of staff of Japan's Ground Self-Defense Force, said that "some countries want to change the status quo by force" in the region.

"This is a reality we must face up to," Iwata said.

He then made clear his intent with a reference to China's declaration late last year of an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) over the East China Sea to include the disputed islets called the Senkakus by Japan and the Diaoyu by China.

China warned at the time that aircraft passing through the ADIZ without identifying themselves could be subject to "emergency measures."

Iwata said the U.S. and Japan should coordinate on "countermeasures to potential attacks" on the islands, and also develop plans "to recapture the islands in case an enemy invades."

Iwata's blunt remarks contrasted with those of Gen. Vincent Brooks, commander of the U.S. Army Pacific, and Scot Maciel, principal assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, at a forum on the Asia-Pacific rebalance at the Association of the U.S. Army's annual meeting and exposition in Washington, D.C.

Maciel said it was wrong to view the so-called "Pacific pivot" as a "rebalance against China." The U.S. goal was to have China as a partner in the rebalance, Maciel said.

Brooks stressed that the multilateral efforts of the Army under the "Pacific Pathways" concept was to forge closer relations in the region through joint exercises with the militaries of states in the region.

Iwata focused on Japan's view of China as a threat to the rebalance. Speaking in English and reading from a prepared statement, Iwata said that the U.S. and Japan had "learned the lesson of bitter experience" in World War II to become allies under a treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security in 1952.

The treaty was a "priceless fortune" committing the allies to mutual defense against an aggressor, Iwata said, and the treaty was enhanced last December by Japan's adoption of its first "National Security Strategy" aimed at shaking off the restrictions of its pacifist Constitution.

The strategy approved by the Cabinet of nationalist Prime Minister Shinzo Abe noted that "Japan is vigilant against China's activities in the East and South China Seas to change the status quo based on claims that are inconsistent with international law."

Under the plan, Japan would spend $240 billion over the next five years on new equipment for the military to include 17 MV-22 Ospreys, 28 F-35 fighters, three unarmed Global Hawk drones, and 52 amphibious troop carriers to shore up the offensive capability of its Self-Defense Forces.

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@military.com.

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