By Horst Teubert and Dr. Peer Heinelt
The German government is holding its first German-Japanese intergovernmental consultations in Tokyo this weekend, with plans to expand bilateral war exercises on the Pacific.
Chancellor Olaf Scholz and six ministers, including Defense Minister Boris Pistorius, will meet their Japanese counterparts tomorrow for talks to intensify cooperation between the two countries.
This comes at a time when not only Japan is massively rearming, increasing its military budget by more than half, and procuring missiles and cruise missiles capable of reaching China.
The United States, too, is dramatically expanding its military presence around the People’s Republic, massing its forces on the first chain of islands off the Chinese coast – from Japan to Taiwan to the Philippines – and forming Australia into a kind of rear base of operations for any attacks on China.
Even military bases on small islands in the Pacific are being expanded to secure supplies from the United States for battles in East Asia.
The Bundeswehr is expanding its maneuvers throughout the region in parallel.
With the first German-Japanese government consultations scheduled for tomorrow, Saturday, in Tokyo, Berlin is pushing ahead with the expansion of cooperation, not least military cooperation, with Japan.
The German government took its first steps more than a decade and a half ago when then Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung flew to the Japanese capital in April 2007 to open doors for closer cooperation.
Nothing much came of it, however.
Still, as the power struggle against China intensified, Germany stepped up its activities.
In April 2021, the foreign and defense ministers of the two countries held their first talks in the “2+2 format,” which aims at the closer merging of mutual foreign and military policies.
Germany and Japan agreed to hold the intergovernmental consultations in April last year, when Chancellor Olaf Scholz embarked on his first trip to Asia in office, choosing Tokyo as the destination.
In addition to the Federal Ministers of Economics and Finance, Robert Habeck, Christian Lindner, Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, and Defense Minister Boris Pistorius, in particular, will take part.
The government consultations come at a time when Tokyo has embarked on a phase of militarization unprecedented since World War II.
Japan’s new National Security Strategy, released in December 2022, explicitly classifies China as the “greatest strategic challenge.”
Whereas Japan had previously limited its military activities strictly to defensive measures, at least officially, the new strategy stipulates for the first time that Japan must have the capability to conduct “effective counterstrikes on an adversary’s territory.”
To this end, various missiles are now to be imported from abroad or developed in-house; for example, Tokyo wants to trim its own anti-ship missiles to a longer range and buy U.S. Tomahawk cruise missiles, which have a range of 1,600 kilometers.
The military budget, set at one percent of economic output due to a self-imposed restriction initiated in 1976, will be increased to two percent.
Since military expenditures from other budget items are being returned to the armed forces budget simultaneously, this amounts to slightly more than 1.5 times a real increase.
A good 42 percent of the population opposes this; more than half criticize the tax increases needed to finance it.
THE FIRST ISLAND CHAIN
Japan’s rearmament is part of a comprehensive regional militarization that includes South Korea, especially the so-called first island chain off the Chinese coast.
this stretches from Japan’s southern islands, including Okinawa with its significant U.S. military bases, through Taiwan and the Philippines to Borneo.
The United States has not only initiated much closer military integration with Japan; for example, airports, seaports, and ammunition depots will be shared more in the future.
It is also regrouping its military presence on Okinawa to gain greater clout.
Washington is rapidly rearming Taiwan and plans to increase the number of military trainers it sends to the southern Chinese island to as many as 200.
Most recently, the U.S. has also begun to rebuild its presence in the Philippines, which it had significantly reduced after the end of the Cold War.
Now they want to build new military facilities there, especially as close as possible to potential theaters of war – on the one hand, far to the north of the main island of Luzon, not far from Taiwan, and on the other hand, on the island of Palawan.
The latter is located in a long stretch of the South China Sea.
REAR BASE OF OPERATIONS
The United States is complementing the buildup of the first island chain by expanding its military presence in Australia and intensifying military cooperation with the former British colony.
U.S. forces have traditionally been present in Australia for maneuvers and are stationed there in part on a rotational basis.
In early December 2022, Australian and U.S. foreign and defense ministers agreed to expand the U.S. military presence further, including upgrading an air base in the north of the country to accommodate up to six nuclear-capable B-52 long-range bombers.[
On Tuesday, Australia, the United States, and the United Kingdom announced plans to upgrade Australia with nuclear-powered submarines.
According to the plan, starting in 2027, when Canberra will have to slowly retire its current submarine fleet, U.S. and British nuclear submarines will initially be temporarily stationed in Australia.
in the 2030s, the country will buy three to five nuclear submarines from the United States. In parallel, the three nations plan to develop new nuclear submarines (“SSN AUKUS”) to be delivered starting in the 2040s.
The cost is estimated at up to 368 billion Australian dollars over the next 32 years (230 billion euros) – almost a quarter of Australia’s current military budget per year.
STEPPING STONES ACROSS THE PACIFIC
The extent of the U.S. military buildup in the Asia-Pacific region is demonstrated by the fact that it is also upgrading its military bases on small Pacific islands.
In the tradition of U.S. military strategy, the islands are considered “stepping stones” across the Pacific, which are intended, among other things, to secure supplies from the United States to combat theaters in the Asia-Pacific region.
Guam, which still has de facto U.S. colony status, plays a central role in this strategy. On Guam, the U.S. Marines established a new base in January to house up to 5,000 U.S. military personnel in the future.
in the event of war, they would have the task of moving as far as possible toward China on small islands – equipped with anti-ship missiles – to destroy Chinese warships.
From Guam, U.S. bombers would also set out toward China. On Palau, an ex-U.S. colony whose military policy is still under U.S. sovereignty, U.S. forces are building a huge radar facility to monitor the Western Pacific.
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock visited Palau last year to intensify Berlin’s cooperation with the island nation.
“2025 AT WAR”
In 2021, the frigate Bayern visited Palau and Guam when it completed its Asia-Pacific cruise. Currently, the Bundeswehr is increasingly expanding its maneuvers in the Asia-Pacific region.
Regarding the rapidly escalating conflict between the United States and China, which is becoming increasingly violent in the region, a senior U.S. general recently stated, “My gut tells me we’ll be fighting in 2025.”
This post was published first here.