– Reuters – Japan plans to dispatch its largest warship, the helicopter carrier Izumo, on a three-month tour through the South China Sea beginning in May, in its biggest show of naval force in the region since World War Two.
– Reuters – Japan plans to accelerate a warship building program to make two frigates a year to patrol the fringes of the East China Sea, where it disputes island ownership with China.
– The Economist – As geopolitical tensions grow in East Asia, so does the discomfort of the Ryukyu Islands.
– The Guardian – Ishigaki Island does not look like a frontline. Japan’s own tropical idyll, it is a sleepy place of pineapple fields and mango orchards, where thousands of tourists potter along white sand beaches and scuba dive in crystal clear seas. Yet this tiny dot on the edge of the Pacific is the closest Japanese town to the uninhabited but fiercely disputed Senkaku Islands, once inhospitable home to a tuna processing factory, now abandoned but key to lucrative fishing grounds, oil and gas fields and a strategic shipping route.
– CNN – Japan is planning on upping its activities in the South China Sea through joint training patrols with the United States and exercises with regional navies, Japanese Defense Minister Tomomi Inada said.
USNI News – Japan still lacks a key element of military power relevant for emerging challenges in the region—a flexible, long range strike weapon. The Tomahawk missile has long been a centerpiece of the U.S. military’s long-range precision strike portfolio. A sea-based weapon with a 1,000-mile range and a 1,000-pound warhead, it brings a proven proficiency for attacking well-defended, high-value land targets. New upgrades, including the ability to hit a ship, ensure the missile’s operational relevance beyond the next decade. The precedent for providing Tomahawk to allies was established nearly 20 years ago when the United Kingdom acquired 65 missiles. It is time to expand the “user club” to include Japan.
– ABC – A Japanese submarine has entered Sydney Harbour for the first time since World War II, just weeks before the Federal Government is tipped to announce which country will build Australia’s future subs fleet.
– CIMSEC – To increase the potency of the JMSDF even further, the acquisition of aircraft carriers (CVs) would be a logical next step. Yet, as CVs can best be described as seagoing airbases with significant offensive capabilities, Japan’s pacifist constitution prohibits their use in its navy. Destroyers (DDs) on the other hand rely on speed and maneuverability and are easily employed in defensive roles, criteria deemed acceptable under the Japanese Constitution. Therefore, to accommodate this unique political limitation, the Japanese have designated one of their latest vessels as a “helicopter destroyer” (DDH) but with capabilities akin to those of an aircraft carrier.
– USNI News – Japan is boosting its amphibious and coastal defense capabilities, shifting security personnel to outer islands and converting ground forces into amphibious units capable of defending those islands from attack.
– Japan Times – With Australia’s release of its defense white paper last week, the race to build the country’s next generation of submarines enters the home stretch — and some experts say the Japanese bid appears to hold an insurmountable lead.
– National Interest – Boosting Tokyo’s presence is key to regional security.
– The Diplomat – Patrol aircraft set to make transits in key locations along the South China Sea.
– Reuters – The U.S. and Japanese navies established a new level of cooperation to resupply each others vessels during joint exercises in the seas south of Japan last week.
– Nikkei Asian Review – Japanese officials are pondering the meaning of a Chinese navy spy ship’s passage near disputed East China Sea islets, a move some think is connected with Beijing’s self-declared air defense identification zone (ADIZ) over that body of water.
– Maritime Executive – An armada of carriers, cruiser, destroyers and submarines gathered off Japan’s coast on Sunday in a display of naval power that showcased Tokyo’s latest warships and signalled wider engagement by the U.S. Navy in the western Pacific.
NAPSNet – This is a study of Japan’s ground-based signals intelligence (SIGINT) stations, the 17 (soon to be 19) major facilities that intercept, monitor, collect, process and analyse foreign electronic signals. Official statements convey nothing of the scale or detail of the Japanese SIGINT effort, which is probably the third or fourth largest SIGINT establishment in the world. These Japanese ground signals interception and location facilities are integrated with its air and missile defence radar facilities. Together with Japan’s own long-range underwater surveillance systems, and combined with the Japan-based US parallel air, ground and underwater surveillance systems, they take Japan a very long way towards its stated aim to ensure information supremacy in the region. As potentially lucrative targets in the event of war, destruction of these important but vulnerable facilities could alter escalation dynamics in such a way that the widespread assumption that a Japan-China armed conflict could be controlled before substantial escalation may not hold true.
– USNI News – Japan has launched the second in its new class of helicopter carrier — the largest Japanese ships since World War II — in a Thursday ceremony in Yokohama.
– USNI News – The government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has proposed major changes in Japan’s defense policy, with strong implications for the United States and U.S. armed forces in the Pacific. The changes, designed to shift Japan away from an isolated, pacifistic defense posture to a more dynamic one based on bilateral and even multilateral relationships, are controversial but not uncommon to most nations.
– Breaking Defense – You’d expect the top admiral in the Japan Self-Defense Force to talk about defending Japan. But Adm. Tomohisa Takei surprised me on his latest visit to Washington — his third in 10 months — with a speech that clearly demonstrates how Japan is broadening its strategic perspective. The new view from Tokyo takes in the Indian Ocean and, especially, the disputed South China Sea. Driving this change, of course, is an alarmingly assertive China.
– FoxtrotAlpha – Japan is looking to further militarize Ishigaki-Jima with both surface-to-air and anti-ship missiles. Ishigaki Island is just 100 miles east of Taiwan and about 100 miles south of the highly disputed Senkaku Islands, putting it in a volatile yet strategic geographic position.
– USNI News – Congress has received notification of a potential $3 billon sale of 17 Bell-Boeing V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft and support equipment to Japan.
– Australian National University Press – A must read new book by Professor Desmond Ball which is freely available.
He writes that Japan is quintessentially by geography a maritime country. Maritime surveillance capabilities – underwater, shore-based and airborne – are critical to its national defence posture. This book describes and assesses these capabilities, with particular respect to the underwater segment, about which there is little strategic analysis in publicly available literature.
– Saturday Paper – The US and Japan have quietly cornered the Chinese navy with an undersea surveillance ring that is framing Australia’s defence policy.
– USNI News – A 24,000-ton helicopter carrier has formally entered the fleet of Japan’s Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF) on Wednesday making the ship the largest warship Japan has fielded since the close of World War II.
– The Diplomat – In order to win, Japan should give China a dose of its own medicine.