(Weekly magazine “Shukan Bunshun“; February 21, 2013; By Satoshi Tomizaka. Translation, as always, by a trusty pal.) 

Kevin Maher, Former State Department Japan Country Director: “Japan, Let us fight together!”

Former State Department Japan Country Director, Kevin Maher stated, “Lighting up the Fire-Control (FC) radar and lock-on is equivalent to an actual attack, and can be interpreted as an act of war.  If a radar-lock is confirmed, the commanding officer has the authority to take a counteroffensive action.  That is a common understanding in the international community.”

Not only Japan, but the U.S. is also in shock after PLA(N)’s second FC radar lock-on.  Although China is denying the accusation, the U.S. State Department’s spokeswoman Victoria Nulan told reporters, “We are convinced there was a fire control radar lock-on.”  Jun Kitamura, a U.S. Navy affiliated Think Tank member, shared: “There is an unspoken rule that the Navies in the world shall not conduct an FC radar lock-on on each other unless the intent is to attack.  The U.S. Navy members have stated that the Chinese Navy routinely breaks the Navy rules and is a disgrace to the Navies in the world.”

China has been routinely violating the territorial waters and air space since Japan nationalized the Senkaku Islands — these are clearly provocative actions, but Maher states that Japan must take a “firm stance” against such provocations, “This is not the time to take a conciliatory stance with China.  Former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama stated that the Senkaku Islands should be debatable territory, but that is absurd.  China wants the Senkaku Islands to be ‘debatable territory’ — after the Senkaku Islands, the step will then be to debate (sovereignty of) Miyako Islands, and mainland Okinawa too.  This is why both the U.S. and Japan must take a firm stance against China.”

The FC radar lock-on was conducted only because China knew Japan would not fight back.  If the U.S. military was placed in a FC radar lock-on, how would they have reacted?

Senior Researcher for the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Richard Fisher analyzed, “There are Rules of Engagement (ROE) for FC radar lock-on in the U.S. military.  The military is views a ‘lock-on’ as an attack, so they are authorized to counter the attack immediately.  The U.S. Navy has been in that situation during the Vietnam and the Gulf wars, and it was standard procedure to counter the lock-on with an attack as means of self-defense.  In fact, if the adversary force can be seen, the Navy will determine if the weapon is a naval gun or a missile, and may try to jam the radar while monitoring the adversary’s next move.  However, if the adversary force cannot be seen by the naked eye, the chance to immediately retaliate via launching a missile increases significantly.”

Sankei Shimbun Washington Branch reporter Yoshihisa Komori stated, “When I was covering the Vietnam War, the U.S. announced that an aircraft under lock-on immediately fired back, and that seemed to be common practice.  I honestly find that the Japanese media is wrong for calling the ‘lock-on’ as ‘radar projection’.  That’s Japan being considerate towards China unnecessarily.”

So, if Japan were to be under attack by China, how would the U.S. military respond?

CSIS Fisher answered, “U.S. will immediately begin dialogue with Japan, should China and Japan face conflict in high seas.  If it is a substantiated attack on Japan by China, U.S. will support Japan under the premise of executing its rights within the realm of the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty.”

Maher also commented, “There’s always a chance that China may attack Japan in the next phase.  In such case, the U.S. will not stand back and watch as its ally faces an attack.  It is critical now, more than ever, to strengthen the U.S.-Japan security structure.  The security structure does not mean that the U.S. will one-sidedly defend Japan.  The U.S.-Japan security structure means that the two nations will defend Japan together.  Therefore, it is critical that Japan demonstrate commitment to strengthening its defense capabilities.  Although it is a good inclination that the defense budget will increase since the administration has changed to LDP, but that alone is not good enough.  At this point, JMSDF and JASDF are comparable to the PLA’s military power, but China’s military is expanding its power rapidly and Japan must be ready.  Japan must expedite and expand its defense plans, such as the construction of AEGIS ships, BMD, establishment of JSDF bases in the southwest islands, introduction of the F35, etc.  The plans to review the National Defense Program Guideline and US-JA Defense Guidelines will begin soon, and that too is a critical step, because it can be utilized to strongly demonstrate to China how committed Japan is.  Some say that the U.S. may take a step back if JSDF strengthens its defense capabilities, but that is not true — that will only deepen the alliance between the two nations and will place Japan as an equal partner to the U.S.”

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A contributor and editor at the blog War Is Boring, Kyle Mizokami started Japan Security Watch in 2010 to further understand Japan's defenses and security policy.
Kyle Mizokami has 536 post(s) on Japan Security Watch