Experts Outline Chinese Threats to Security in the Western Pacific
By OTTO KREISHER, Seapower Correspondent
WASHINGTON — A panel of U.S. and Japanese defense scholars warned Oct. 2 that China’s rapidly growing military power, including its amphibious capabilities, presents a rising threat to Japan and to America’s security interests in the Western Pacific, which demands that Japan revise its anti-war constitution and the U.S. consider returning tactical nuclear weapons to its warships and possibly to South Korea.
Addressing a forum on defense cooperation in the Western Pacific at the Hudson Institute, the three America and two Japanese experts were united in their appraisal of China’s threats to the security in the Far East, including its growing ability to seize Taiwan.
Richard Fisher, an Asian scholar at the International Assessment and Strategy Center, and Kanji Ishimaru, a director at Japanese defense firm ShinMaywa Industries Ltd., agreed that control of Taiwan would allow China to cut Japan’s sea lines of trade, which would be disastrous to the resource-poor nation.
“Once that line is cut, Japan will die,” Ishimaru said.
Seth Cropsey, director of Hudson’s Center for American Seapower, emphasized China’s rapid increase in its amphibious warfare capabilities, noting that by 2020 it will have a large-deck amphib, similar in size to the USS Wasp class of amphibious assault ships. The “LHD-size” ship will augment China’s growing fleet of other amphibious warships that he said pose a threat to Japan’s Ryukyu islands and the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu islands, as well as Taiwan.
Fisher noted China’s recent activation of its first unit of the fifth-generation J-20 fighters and that it now is able to equip them with indigenous jet engines, ending its dependence on Russian engines. He said China now plans to create a carrier-capable version of the J-20 to equip its upcoming China-built aircraft carrier.
Fisher also provided a detailed briefing on China’s powerful role in accelerating North Korea’s ballistic missile advances, which could lead “in the near future” to the ability to put three nuclear warheads on an intercontinental-range missile.
Paul Giarra, a former naval aviator now president of Global Strategies and Transformation, joined the others in calling for Japan to remove Article 9 from its post-war constitution, which bans the development of offensive capabilities and the use of war. He also criticized the U.S. approach to the threats from China and North Korea.
“What we’re doing now will not work,” he said.
Jun Isomura, a former Japanese foreign ministry official now at the Hudson Institute, said it “was really time for Japan” to change its mind on defense cooperation with the United States, in response to the rising threats from China. He noted that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is trying to change his nation’s post-war resistance to a stronger defense and suggested that Article 9 was not as restrictive as many believe.
Cropsey, Fisher and Giarra specifically called on the United States to reconsider its post-Cold War decision to remove tactical nuclear weapons from its warships and said it should begin negotiation with Seoul on whether to restore them to South Korea in response to North Korea’s demonstrated nuclear capabilities.