“In stark contrast to White House policy, a top Japanese general on Tuesday [October 14] said the U.S. military rebalance of forces to the Pacific should confront Chinese aggression in the region”, an article published on October 15 by reports. The senior Japanese military leader we are speaking about is General Kiyofumi Iwata, the chief of staff of Japan’s Ground Self-Defense Force. He said that “some countries want to change the status quo by force” in the Asia-Pacific region, and that “this is a reality we must face up to”. Iwata also said that the U.S. and Japan should coordinate “countermeasures to potential attacks” on the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, and also should develop common plans “to recapture the islands in case an enemy invades”[1]. The only potential enemy really able to invade the Senkakus is, at this very moment, China, whose armed forces are growing stronger and stronger.

What the U.S. Department of Defense is saying on China

The massive growth pace of the Chinese military forces has already generated several really worried official reports in the U.S. The most recent major Pentagon report, made public earlier this year (in late April), clearly states, for example, that “although the dialogue between the United States and China is improving, outstanding questions remain about the rate of growth in China’s military expenditures due to the lack of transparency regarding China’s intentions”[2]. The same report says that “in the East China Sea, China claims sovereignty over the Senkaku Islands, which the Chinese refer to as the Diaoyu Islands. The Senkaku Islands are under the administration of Japan and are also claimed by Taiwan. In April 2012, the Governor of Tokyo announced plans to purchase three of the five Senkaku Islands from private Japanese owners. In September 2012, the Government of Japan purchased the three islands. China protested the move and since that time has regularly sent maritime law enforcement ships – and, less often, aircraft –to patrol near the Senkaku Islands to assert PRC claims, including regular Chinese maritime operations within 12 nautical miles (nm) of the islands. In November 2013, China announced an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) in the East China Sea with coverage that included the Senkaku Islands and overlapped with previously established Japanese, South Korean and Taiwan zones”, and that the U.S. “neither accepts nor recognizes China’s requirements for operating in the newly declared ADIZ”[3].

An even more recent Pentagon report says that “in case of an armed attack against Japan, Japan will have primary responsibility to repel the attack”, and “the United States will provide support, including strike operations as appropriate”[4]. The same text is saying that “the cabinet decision by the Government of Japan on July 1, 2014, for developing seamless security legislation, envisions the expansion of the Self-Defense Forces activities”, and also states that “the revision of the Guidelines will reflect this cabinet decision appropriately and will strengthen the Alliance and enhance deterrence”[5]. Deliberately using the concept of deterrence is a very significant fact, we think. At this very moment, only one major power (with increasing global capabilities and ambitions) is to be deterred in the Far East, by the U.S. and its regional allies: China. Russia, more vocal than before, is clearly less dangerous (at least for the time being), in the Asia-Pacific, for major and vital geo-strategic interests of both the U.S. and Japan.

At the end of September, Navy Times reports, U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work said, within the framework of an extensive talk at the Council on Foreign Relations, that “while the Senkakus are under Japanese control, Article 5 applies, and we would respond if there was an attempt to take the Senkakus”. Later on, Work also stated that “we would definitely respond militarily to certainly any engagements against our allies”[6].

The official position of the U.S. regarding China is clearly less ‘hawkish’. For example, Scot Maciel, Principal Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs said, at a quite recent forum on the Asia-Pacific rebalance at the Association of the U.S. Army’s annual meeting and exposition in Washington, D.C, that “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”[7].

The same open source strongly underlines that “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”, and that 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”[8]. Such massive defense spending (roughly $50 billion per year!) is a very clear sign that Tokyo estimates the regional balance of power in Asia-Pacific is quickly deteriorating under the impact of the accelerated growth of the Chinese military power, combined with increased geostrategic ambitions of the leaders in Beijing.


[1] Richard SISK, “Japanese General Calls on US Military to Confront China”,, October 15, 2014, at the Internet address

[2] “Executive Summary”, in Annual Report to Congress: Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China 2013, on the official webpage of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), April 24, 2014, at the Internet address, p. ii

[3] “Annual Update”, in Annual Report to Congress: Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China 2013, on the official webpage of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), April 24, 2014, at the Internet address, pp. 3-4

[4] The Interim Report on the Revision of the Guidelines for U.S.-Japan Defense Cooperation, on the official webpage of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), at the Internet address, p. 4, text accessed on October 16, 2014

[5] Ibidem, p. 1

[6] Hayat NORIMINE, “Top DoD official: U.S. will ‘respond’ if Japan-China dispute escalates”, Navy Times, September 30, 2014, text accessed at the Internet address

[7] Richard SISK, op. cit.

[8] Ibidem

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