Friday, June 12, 2009

Does India threaten China?

Does India threaten China? A recent Chinese poll shows that India does pose a threat. Here's a story by Zhu Shanshan that states India is a threat.

Zhu Shanshan

An online poll conducted by on June 10 shows that 90 percent of participants believe India poses a big threat to China after India announced it would dispatch 60,000 troops to the border with China.

The tension along the disputed border between the two countries has escalated in the last few days after India's latest military move. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh claimed, despite cooperative India-China relations, his government would make no concessions to China on territorial disputes.

The Indian government's tough stance has won applause among Indian nationalists, but it's not well-received in China.

About 74 percent people in the poll by believed China should not maintain the friendly relations with India anymore after its military provocation. And more than 65 percent of people taking part in the poll believed India's actions were harmful to bilateral ties and it is more harmful to India.

India's military moves could cast a shadow over bilateral relations, said Dai Xun, an expert in military affairs, who described India's actions as “plundering a burning house”, when the international community was focused on a reported nuclear test in the DPRK, destroying the mutual trust between neighboring countries.
An expert in the Asia-pacific region, Sun Shihai, with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences told the Global Times that the two countries share a lot of mutual interests, so India has to cooperate with China; but India also needs to show its “will and resolution” to both domestic politicians and the international community.

“It (additional deployment) is not helpful to resolve the border dispute, and could easily cause regional tension,” Sun said.

In 1962, India and China fought a brief war over the 3,500 km Himalayan border area. The two countries later signed a treaty and agreed to maintain “peace and tranquility” along the disputed frontier, but since then have made little progress.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Gender and International Security

It is a prevalent notion that gender does have nothing to do with mainstream international politics/security. International security has been heavily male-dominated in its discourse and prescriptions. I would however argue that it is essential both men and women have a say in any decision-making process or equally represented in a decision-making fora. It is simply not fair to keep half of the population outside of these processes.

It is obvious that it comes along with the all the responsibilities and duties. It still amazes me when I hear men reiterate that point. It is pretty obvious that rights come along with certain and responsibilities. Secondly, it does not matter whether men and women in equal representations is for the betterment of the society or not, but the more important aspect is to include the other half of the population into the mainstream.

Most forms of feminism, in some or the other, reject patriarchy because patriarchy seeks to portray men as the perfect norm against which women are compared and found lacking. The patriarchal revolves around controlling women. Bringing a gender perspective into international relations (IR) or any issue does not necessarily mean men and women are different. It is just as among IR theorists, there are various schools of thought such as the realists, non-realists, feminism or a gender approach will only bring another school of thinking to the existing schools of thinking.

Bringing a gender perspective to a forum discussing ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka or Sierra Leone is hardly appreciated. However, I would reiterate the known but ignored fact that it is women and children who are the most affected in any conflict. Conferences/seminars are held to deliberate on as to what are the critical issues in a particular conflict, who are the stakeholders, how a comprehensive solution can be found and so on. However, giving an additional gender dimension to the debate by a well-trained IR (International Relations) feminist as to how women end up being the largest victims, the audience is immediately even astonished to say how it is directly relevant to the current debate. This is not true of just India; the western world of academia is not drastically different. The “learned” audience and other participants also end up saying the discussion is digressing from the main theme.

What does feminism mean in reality?
Feminism has come a long way, as did other theories, moving from first wave feminism, to second wave, third wave and contemporary feminism. One finds that the third wave feminism has been a more acceptable form of feminism. Third wave feminism originated in the 1990s attempts to challenge some of the definitional aspects developed during the second wave feminism. The second wave had assumed certain universal female identity as also identified a lot with the experiences of upper middle class white women. Broadly, one can say that while first wave focused on issues such as suffrage, the second wave devoted itself to fighting inequality and the need for an end to discrimination. Third wave feminism, on the other hand, moved away from the concept of universal female identity, and refers to feminists coming from a variety of class and race. They essentially stood for issues that oppress or limit women and sought to create a broadbase inculcating consciousness of the issues involved and widespread education gearing up the society towards gradual social change.

Feminism is generally understood, particularly in the Indian sense, to be “embracing movements for equality within the current system and significant struggles that have attempted to change the system.” The question however arises as to why women should strive to be equal to men. Is “men” the model to be imitated upon and emulated? The answer should be a categorical “NO.” There is an urgent need to change the traditional gender roles, as they tend to see male as the ideal to emulate and perpetuate patriarchy.

There is nonetheless a category of women who seek preferential treatment to be given to them because they are women. By this, this category is obviously making a point that they are inferior to the male species, and hence seek a special favoured treatment. There is a question of dichotomy in this: on the one hand, women want to be equal and on the other, they seek special treatment, owing to the fact that they are women and hence weak. The stereotype community, including that of the IR academic community, tend to see the world through the masculinely associated factors such as power, strength, autonomy and rationality, whereas the women is seen just the opposite of the above said things like, weak, dependence, irrational, emotional and volatile. Such stereotype configuration of persons will continue to be a stumbling block for real progress and development. There is yet another facet to the whole issue of gender. Former Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi articulated that she is not a feminist, but she would do something for the underprivileged including women. She added that feminism or women’s so-called freedom in the west is only an imitation of man. While one could agree that freedom in the west for women may not be in absolute terms, it might be too simplistic to say that it is just an imitation.

Feminism – a social and cultural construct
I tend to agree with the constructionist thought in reiterating that differences between the sexes are a socially and culturally construct phenomena rather than biological differences. These differences, besides arising out of patriarchal system, also have to do with religion one preaches. Almost all religions describe men as the superior species and commanded that they be in control of weaker species “women.” Consider the following:

"Wives, submit yourselves unto your husbands as unto the Lord, for the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church."- Ephesians 5:22-23.

"A woman must never be free of subjugation." - The Hindu code of Manu V

"In pain shall you bear children, yet your urge will be for your husband and he shall rule over you."- Genesis 3:16

"Your women are fields for you to cultivate, so go to your field as you will." - Koran 2:223

"Women have weak memories, are undisciplined, impulsive and dangerous when given authority over anything." - Catholic Church's edict against witches.

"I thank thee O lord, that thou has not created me a heathen, a slave, or a woman."- Orthodox Jewish prayer

"Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. I suffer not women to teach nor to usurp authority over the man but to be in silence."- First epistle-Timothy 2:11-12.

Feminism through history
Historically-speaking, women played a great role in sustaining the support structure in various countries, particularly during World War II. This was purely necessitated by the shortage of men, who were out fighting in their own country or foreign countries. Compelled by such events, women moved out of closed doors and their traditional roles to take up jobs otherwise meant for men. Women were literally running the country, managing the affairs of various towns and cities. Women in cities like London were faced with not just additional government and other jobs, but also had to deal with bombing raids and other wartime threats. As combat areas expanded to cities, women bore the duty to protect their families, children, the elderly, either in taking them to safety areas and providing them with food and shelter during the emergency. The US also witnessed similar situations. Thousands of women were employed in Washington, DC in various government and support jobs. Women were also employed in huge numbers at Los Alamos and Oak Ridge, after the US bombed Japan. Shortage of men also pushed women into other non-traditional areas including sports. The All-American Girls Baseball League, created around the same period, was a result of such shortages. There were even women pilots, although in non-combat roles. Women pilots were trained to fly non-combat missions so that male pilots could be made available for combat missions. Essentially, the women pilots flew between the manufacturing plants and military bases, but they also flew new aircrafts like the B-29, to showcase their capability and that these aircrafts were not as difficult as men make it out to be.

Women political leadership has also come up during wartimes. For instance, in China, wife of the Nationalist leader, Chiang Kai-shek was active in promoting the Chinese cause against the Japanese occupation. However, that could be categorised a passive duty behind the mainstream. Notably, she was also the head of China’s air force during the war. She was one of the few people who had addressed the US Congress (in 1943). In most other cases, women in powerful positions, owing to the family links or such other factors, played only a behind-the scene role, in morale building among the population – civilian or armed forces. In all of these cases, women played a role outside of their traditional ones/home front, only when there was shortage of male forces, as male was considered to be the norm and women had to be pushed into these roles simply out of necessity.

However, during modern times, there are areas where a woman has played a significant role that cannot be undermined. These roles do manifest in particularly critical situations, although never taken into account in the mainstream discourse. For instance, the role of woman is critical in carrying forward terrorist or counter-terrorist agenda. A woman remains critical in the indoctrination of terrorist or counter-terrorist ideology, because a woman is ultimately shaping up the thought process of children. In an insurgency infested area, poverty and shortage of cash flow are factors that guide the actions of a woman. She could decide that a terrorist could be given shelter for few months in return for Rs. 10000 or so, as she is hard pressed for cash.

Linguistic aspects of feminism
While seeking to gender-sensitive the IR community, the linguistic aspect of IR becomes very interesting. I may list out a few examples of such uses: chairman, man, he. It is often argued by male colleagues that these words are used rather as neutral and is not to be taken in its literary sense. But I would argue that it is appalling to even argue on such terms. It is highly unacceptable. Another callous usage is that of lady doctors. Consider a few instances and some of these have been taken from other seminal works on feminism and philosophy of language. ‘Ask the candidate about his husband or wife’; ‘when a student comes into the room, he should pick up a handout’. These are not gender-neutral usage of words, but because male is the norm. Here, I would like to make further clarifications. Consider words like ‘waitress’, ‘lady doctor’, ‘manager’, ‘chairman’. Waitress is used to specify a woman on the job, because that is the norm, a woman is expected to deal with handling kitchen, home etc, whereas lady doctor is not the norm. In a profession such as doctor, male is the norm and a female doctor is considered unusual and strange, despite the fact that they make better doctors. Somewhat similar is the case of manager and chairman. There are, by and large, no such usage like ‘manageress’ (although I believe it might be use in the UK) and chairwoman, because, again, male is the norm. Is there a term ‘househusband’ in our social milieu? No, it is only housewife, because only woman is considered to be sitting at home, looking after affairs at home (female is the norm), while the husband is typically the bread-earner of the house.

There has been some progress made to find alternate words like the singular use of the third-person gender-neutral pronoun ‘they’ in place in ‘he’ in a sentence like ‘someone left their sweater behind.’ However, the use of ‘chairperson’ does not have such an optimistic interpretation, because it is still considered as being used only when a woman holds that position, and not in general terms. However, I must say that I was astonished recently at the gender insensitiveness displayed at one of the highest bodies of the US Congress. Recently, there was a team of people from US-China Economic and Security Review Commission that had visited my office. Since I wanted to see who they are, what their areas of interests are, I visited their website and was astonished to see Ms. Carolyn Bartholomew addressed as the Commission’s Chairman for the 2007 report cycle. Where has all the gender-sensitiveness gone? One assumed that the whole linguistic debate about feminism particularly in the usage of words like chairperson was outdated. It has been a wrong assumption however.

There are words in English language that have generated from a male-dominated society. Consider the word, whore. The meaning of the word is, “a woman who engages in promiscuous sexual intercourse, usually for money; prostitute; harlot; strumpet.” Consider rape; meaning of the word is “the unlawful compelling of a woman through physical force or duress to have sexual intercourse.” All these are symptoms of the male mindset that man is powerful and male thrusts upon a woman sexually; and in the first case, it can only be a woman if she is engaged in sexual activities for money. Again, there are words that denote the masculine and feminine aspects like bachelor and spinster. However, in the case of bachelor, it has a positive connotation whereas spinster portrays negativity.

What ought to be done?
One might argue that there has been a lot of progress made in the whole debate of women’s rights and the need for equal representation. However, lot needs to be done still to ensure that women sit around the table as equal partners. It should be noted that women still face discrimination at work places, despite the increase in the number of women moving out of their traditional roles of running the domestic chores and taking up duties and responsibilities, which were denied traditionally. Women earn relatively less and enjoy lesser perks compared to men on the same job; are appointed for lower ranks despite the competence. Besides, women are also faced with double burden problem. This concept was introduced to scientific theory by Myrdal and Klein in their work “Women's two roles: Home and work,” published in London in 1956. It is a fact that women have to excel in their work (excel even their counterparts, who may be equal or even an average) as well as manage the household and childcare. Many patriarchal groups have criticized this concept saying that a woman made the choice and was not forced upon her. I want to argue that this is so because female is the norm in the case of running household and childcare, whereas seeking a career is going against that norm and hence, be prepared to face the additional burden.

It should be admitted that linguistic aspect and changes sought in this area is only an aspect of a large problem. The large problem remains the mindset of the society that is conditioned for decades together that male is the norm. Writing on the difficulty faced in bringing about reforms, Deborah Cameron cited one of the most striking passages that appeared in The Sunday Times. It read: “the lack of vitality is aggravated by the fact that there are so few able-bodied young adults about. They have all gone off to work or look for work, leaving behind the old, disabled, the women and the children” (Cameron, 1985). The power that men exercised over decades and centuries have left them with certain power over society, how the society and its norms are created, have had a strong influence on the language, spoken and written. Hence, the need of the hour remains not to pick out phrases and sentences, but there has to be a conscious understanding of serious issues involved – change of the male-dominated mindset.

Asian Military Strategies: A Comparison

Asia is widely expected to be at the center of global politics in the 21st century. All the major powers today are Asian powers, either because they are on the continent, or, as in the case of the United States, they have vital interests and direct impact on the politics of this region. Whether they will cooperate with each other or compete will at least partly be determined by the kind of military postures and strategies that they adopt.

While some of the major powers have adopted inclusive and accommodative approaches, certain other powers have tended to assume exclusive approaches that are not congenial to a stable Asian security order. In this regard, states have tried to do internal -- strengthening of its security forces, increasing offensive and defensive capabilities -- and external balancing – forging alliances and partnerships, forming coalition of the willing to act against common threats -- so as to achieve a state of security.

This paper will compare and contrast the military strategies, military capabilities and major military responses of the four major Asian powers -- China, US, Russia and Japan. The last section of the paper will look at the implications of these on the Asian stability and Indian security.

The growth of China as a major military and economic power along with its global aspirations for a superpower status has remained a subject for major debates not only in the US and Japan, but also in Russia and India. China has been making systematic progress in its military modernisation, evolving from concepts like “Local Wars under Modern Hightech Conditions” in 2002 to “Local Wars under Modern Informationalized Conditions” in 2004 to “Local Wars under the Conditions of Informationalization” in 2006. The 2006 defence White Paper titled “China’s National Defence 2006” states that “to build a powerful and fortified national defence is a strategic task of China’s modernization drive”[1] and that “China pursues a three-step development strategy in modernizing its national defence and armed forces in accordance with the state’s overall plan to realize modernization.”[2] However, the worry is that China’s military modernisation is more ambitious than what is dictated by its immediate security concerns and is an indication of its larger global objectives. The Chinese test of an anti-satellite (ASAT) weapon in January 2007 appeared to demonstrate these larger ambitions too.

On the other hand, the United States which is not geographically an Asian power, but remains a critical factor in the Asian and global security order, views China as a potential adversary. Joint Vision 2020, a Pentagon planning document, concluded that Asia will replace Europe as the key focus of US military strategy in the early 21st century and pointed to China as a potential adversary. The Quadrennial Defence Review Report of 2006 talked about the rising powers such as India and China and the implications of their rise for US policies. Hence, the US, while adjusting its military posturing in Asia, has to consider not only the capabilities that China is developing, but also the specific manner in which it intends to use those capabilities against the US and other powers in the region. The fact remains that as “Chinese military power grows, its leaders’ options increase with respect to the use of coercion to press diplomatic advantage, advance interests, or resolve disputes.”[3] Whether the US will remain an active player in Asian military contests or whether it will remain as an off-shore balancer will be another key question. These choices have implications for both Asian stability and Indian security.

While Russia’s return towards a great power status is uncertain, it still remains a potent force to reckon with in international security affairs, especially in Asia. In fact, Russia’s military modernization coupled with its assertiveness based on its energy and other resources make for a dynamic Russia in the Asian security order. Russia today exhibits a peculiar mix of weakness and strength, which is illustrated in the 2003 Russian defence White Paper that stated that Russia may consider preventive strikes in case of dire threats to its national security.[4] It illustrated both the weakness of its conventional military might, and the continuing potency of its strategic forces. Russia today appears to perceive many threats, including the expansion of US influence in the region, ethnic and other domestic conflicts in its neighbourhood and terrorism. How Russia will react to these threats as it grows stronger is unclear but it will have significant impact on the region. There is ambivalence also with regard to whether Russia in the coming decades will see itself as an Asian or European power. However, given the acknowledgment that this century is an Asian century, Russia will like to be part of the Asian matrix.

Lastly, although an economic superpower, Japan never managed to become a major geopolitical factor due to its pacifist military posturing. This posturing is undergoing change, with Japan assuming larger security responsibilities, as was evident through deployment of troops to Iraq and its naval vessels in the Arabian Sea in support of US military operations in Afghanistan. The rise of a more independent Japan in the coming years is a reality that China, Russia and the US have to deal with: the change in the name from Japanese Defense ‘Agency’ to ‘Ministry’ appears to indicate this new reality. Hence, it would be important for Asian and global policy makers to see not only that the rise of China is peaceful, but also that Japan’s more complex geopolitical rise, is also stabilising.

However, if one is to analyse the trends in Asian militaries, it is pertinent to analyse a number of indicators including the defence spending, military capabilities acquired and the broad strategies adopted by each of these powers individually as also through alliances and partnerships.
[1] “China’s National Defence in 2006,” Chapter II, National Defence Policy, available at
[2] Ibid.
[3] US Government, Department of Defense, “Military Power of the People’s Republic of China 2006,” Annual Report to Congress, available at
[4] “Putin: Russia Preserves Its Right to preventive Strikes.”, October 9, 2003, as cited in Dr. Andrei Shoumikhin, “The Russian Military’s New “Open Doctrine”,” National Institute for Public Policy, available at

Monday, June 1, 2009

North Korean N-tests: Japan's Options and Implications

North Korea conducted its second round of nuclear tests on May 25, 2009. North Korea also fired three surface-to-air missiles into the sea, according to South Korea's defense minister, Lee Sang-hee, in an apparent effort to chase off U.S. spy planes monitoring the nuclear test site.

How does the region and more specifically Japan deal with a nuclear North Korean in its neighbourhood? While Japanese officials have acknowledged that a direct attack on Japan may not be on the anvil, the more serious worry will be Pyongyang’s ability and possible intention to proliferate these dangerous weapons to states or more so, non-state actors through black market, like they had sold and proliferated missile technology in the Middle East. Despite such acknowledgement, the threat of an attack cannot be ignored altogether.

While North Korea has been pursuing its nuclear weapons programme, in the last decade it has advanced to a great degree. In fact, Pyongyang believes that nuclear weapons and missiles along with their conventional capabilities are required as deterrents against possible South Korean, Japanese and American military aggression against North Korea. Soon after the May tests, the Korean Central News Agency announced that Pyongyang had “successfully conducted one more underground nuclear test as part of the measures to bolster up its nuclear deterrent for self-defence in every way as requested by its scientists and technicians. The test will contribute to defending the sovereignty of the country and the nation and socialism and ensuring peace and security on the Korean Peninsula and the region around it with the might of (the military first policy) Songun.” Japan has, time and again, contemplated pre-emptive strikes and nuclear deterrence as effective options. Will Japan purse such options in the wake of the second round of nuclear tests or will Japan be constrained by the US-Japan security alliance?

The recent nuclear tests, Pyongyang argues that, is in response to the international response, more particularly the UN statement criticizing the April 5 missile/rocket launch. Following these responses, North Korea (Foreign Ministry spokesman) had suggested that Pyongyang’s “additional self-defensive measures could also include a uranium enrichment programme to enhance its nuclear capabilities.” The implication of this is that they have sufficient fuel and other paraphernalia to carry out nuclear tests, once they decide on further tests (within a month too). Such capabilities are destabilizing on several accounts. The situation is slightly complex because the government mines its own uranium, builds laboratories using its own technical expertise and generates its own plutonium, making it hard to stop the process from the outside.

Prime Minister Taro Aso said that Japan "absolutely cannot tolerate" the nuclear test because North Korea is also beefing up its ballistic missile capability, which "could be a means of transportation for weapons of mass destruction." Chief Cabinet Secretary, Takeo Kawamura said, “The North Korean nuclear test, along with the nation, building up the capability of carrying devices of mass destruction by its long-range missiles, poses a serious threat to Japan’s peace and security as well as to the region.”
Following the recent nuclear tests, former Defence Chief General Nakatani said in a meeting of the LDP officials that Japan should consider developing the capability to conduct pre-emptive military strikes on North Korea. He elaborated saying “We must look at active missile defense such as attacking an enemy’s territory and bases.” One of the options he considers is to equip naval ships with cruise missiles. Earlier, following April 2009 missile tests, an LDP panel had articulated the need to change its policy (thereby the constitution) that would permit attacks on “hostile areas.” Japan also deployed naval and land-based ballistic missile defences fearing a repeat of the 2006 missile tests when parts of the missile fell on Japanese territory. Kyodo News reported Finance Minister Shoichi Nakagawa as saying that “We (Japan) should hold a proper debate about attacking launch bases and about shelters in case something does happen.”[1] Under the pacifist clause of its post-war constitution, Japan is nominally barred from taking aggressive action or acquiring aggressive weapons. Even before Monday’s test, the LDP officials were exploiting the previous missile test to argue that Japan should be able to take “preemptive action” and not “sit and wait for death”.
Following the tests, Japan dispatched three military aircraft from separate bases to monitor the possible presence of radioactive substances in the air, the Defense Ministry said. Japan's anxiety about the test is heightened by its vulnerability to attack from nearby North Korea, which has more than 200 mid-range Nodong missiles capable of striking most of the country. Several experts, including American and Japanese have concluded that North Korea has built or is attempting to build nuclear warheads small enough to fit atop those missiles.
The earlier public debates on the possible Japanese response have been again to adopt a hardline, more on the lines of preemptive strikes and nuclear deterrence. Since mid-1995, a section of the Japanese government has believed that Japan should have the capability to strike North Korean assets if Japan perceives an imminent attack. Following the 1998 Taepodong-1 missile tests in August 1998, the Japanese government, media and security analysts debated serious counter-measures, including development of missile defence programmes and “acquisition of military strike capabilities” on North Korean missile bases. The subject was debated again in 2003 when the Japanese defence minister suggested that it should contemplate a “preemptive strike” on North Korea if Japan saw an evidence of North Korea planning an attack on it. Following such discussions, the LDP in 2004 proposed that the country debate about whether it should develop offensive military capabilities and if so, how it should be used.[2] Some security analysts believe that developing offensive strike capability will be an effective measure in defending Japan against ballistic missile attacks on several accounts. Firstly, the SDF “can attack missile launch sites when a country intends to attack Japan and the missile is being prepared for launch.” Second, analysts argue that even when Japan is attacked first, “an offensive strike capability could prevent subsequent ballistic missile attacks against Japan.” Third argument revolves around using offensive capability as a deterrent against any missile attacks.[3] This debate gained a further momentum after the 2006 missile tests by North Korea when some members within the government and the Liberal Democratic Party argued that Japan should “consider developing the capability to strike a foreign missile base if there is an imminent threat of an attack on Japan.”[4] Debates in this regard focused on preemptive military strikes against North Korean missile facilities. The 2006 debates were triggered by the statement of Defence Agency Director General Fukushiro Nukaga. He said, “As a sovereign nation, it is natural to consider possessing the minimum capability (for a preemptive strike against a foreign missile base) within the confines of the Constitution in order to protect the citizens.”[5] Following Nukaga’s remarks, Foreign Minister Taro Aso and Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe too expressed similar sentiments, with Aso saying that “Japan must consider the acquisition of a preemptive strike capability within constitutional constraints.”[6] In August 2006, the Subcommittee on Defence Policies in the Liberal Democratic Party’s National Defense Division was debating whether Japan should “acquire the capability to attack ‘a foreign enemy base’.”[7]
Japan, however, lack the wherewithal as of now in terms of long-range bombers or missiles. Japan would need to acquire a few systems in place, including a) ability to destroy air defense radars; b) low-flying aircraft so as to avoid radar detection; c) air-to-surface guided missiles or cruise missiles; and ability to collect intelligence on enemy sites.[8] Additionally, many experts believe that such pre-emptive strikes can be destabilising for the entire region. First of all, these strikes will be seen as a return to a “militaristic” Japan. Second, Japan’s development of such capabilities could spur North Korea in to testing more advanced weapon systems, which will force Japan to carry out further measures. This will lead to a regional arms race. If Japan changes its current defensive stance, China will be compelled to increase the quantity and quality of its offensive weapons; thereafter India will follow the suit and then Pakistan and it could even impact the situation in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Egypt. However, what is probably feasible might be for Japan to improve its missile defence capabilities to an advanced level, whereby it can detect the launch at the boost phase itself, which might not be viewed as offensive capability by the international community. Despite these debates, such strike options are complicated in the Japanese case given the restrictive nature of Japanese constitution.

Similar has been the Japanese debates whether it should go nuclear or not. Most of the debates, however, are not connected with war-fighting scenarios as is in the case of China or due to an existential threat like in the case of Israel. The debate is placed within the “political and strategic entropy that would be associated with a collapse of the US extended deterrence commitment.”[1] In fact, some Japanese scholars believe that Japan should acquire nuclear weapons whenever situation warrants, because as they argue, “credibility of the US commitment to Japan would inevitably erode, China would develop a blue water naval presence in Japanese strategic sea lanes, and the international community would acquiesce to North Korea’s nuclear weapons and allow the NPT regime to collapse.”[2]
All the while, the opinion among prominent Japanese opinion-makers was a clear no, owing to two main reasons. First, it was believed that Japanese nuclear programme in response to China could evoke regional instability. Second issue was that a Japanese nuclear programme could possibly affect the US security ties and weaken the alliance.[3] Public allergy to nuclearisation remains strong, despite the fact that there is a new sense of nationalism developing particularly among the younger generation. A few security analysts have been of the view that this new nationalism could affect Japan significantly in the sense that they may not feel the need to be relying on the US for their security and be beholden to US objectives and principles.[4] They may even start questioning the need to continue with a pacifist constitution imposed upon them by the US. If that be the case, it could lead to an independent foreign and security policy, including the nuclear option. Serious geopolitical developments in the region such as a possible Korean reunification could have serious consequences for Japan. If re-unification of the Koreas takes place, one question that will gain immediate prominence will be whether that it would be a nuclear Korea.

Tokyo however remains frustrated about its options vis a vis Pyongyang. The 6-party talks haven’t worked; nor the unilateral sanctions against NK by Japan. Tokyo already maintains tough sanctions against North Korea—with a ban on all imports from North Korea, no transport links and a prohibition on exports of luxury items. The Nikkei English News reported that the government was considering a complete ban on exports to North Korea.

In conclusion, Japan maintains that the US nuclear umbrella and the security assurance with the US remain the best choice, without giving up the potential for a deterrent capability at a future date. This is also due to the fact that Japanese strategists continue to be concerned about possible US arms control agreements with China and North Korea that could leave Japan at a strategic loss, facing serious insecurities. Even when Japan maintains that the US security umbrella remains the best security cover, they would like to get a better ownership of security, be it nuclear or otherwise. This could be also due to the rising nationalism among the younger generation who may not like to be dictated by US directives.

Implications: However, if Japan and South Korea perceive that US’ extended deterrence strategy as not credible, these countries will be forced to take security on their shoulders. Japan, for instance has been compelled to consider hardline options on two accounts.[1] First, the worry that North Korea’s nuclear- and missile-related issues cannot be sorted out through international arms control agreements. There is a sense that international arms control arrangements are not effective in taking care of problems like Iran, North Korea. Such a line of thinking led the Bush Administration to go for a preemptive attack on Iraq. The validity of these actions is a separate debate. In a similar vein, Japan is sensing the increasing North Korean threat and is not certain about the effectiveness of international agreements to curb the North Korean threat.

Second, the Japanese apprehension about the US ability and intention to extend support through extended deterrence. There is an increasing perception that there is a gradual erosion of the US’ extended deterrence strategy.[2] If US power is seen to be declining and it is not able to provide extended deterrence, this could lead to some regional powers, including Japan, taking security on their shoulders rather than relying on the US. If regional powers start taking security onto their own shoulders, this may in turn mean that the US must selectively choose to decide regions that are vital to its strategic interests and thereby apply extended deterrence selectively. In this scenario, the question that needs to be asked is whether Japan is worth the cost to prioritise and maintain its bases and provide credible deterrence.[3]

Lastly, Where does Japan figure in that new configuration of priorities? If preponderance is also exercised through extended deterrence strategy and thereby forward deployment and basing policy, it becomes a costly proposal. Whether the US is willing to risk and take that additional cost any more is an issue.[4] Hence, some scholars have argued that a preponderance strategy if continued will be a drain on the US economy, thereby reducing its economic might and “weaken its geopolitical standing” in the new century.[5] Obama appears to be taking these measures a bit too seriously ignoring the fact that it is America’s “hard power” that is most influential in the Asia-Pacific and any discount on that front can cost the US’ standing in Asia as well as risk its allies in the region.[6] The recent decision by the Obama Administration to cut back on some of the defense programmes involving high technology weapon systems could be detrimental to Japanese security, as Obama is cutting down on missile defence and satellite programmes.[7] The Airborne Laser program that is being axed remains an important component in intercepting ballistic missiles in the “boost” phase, shortly after launch. All these scenarios put Japan and its security at serious risk.[8] The US’ decision regarding F-22 Raptor could also send wrong signals to Japan.[9] Therefore, Japan might be forced to go pro-active and offensive in its postures, even if gradually. The Bush Administration, despite its even ties with China, had maintained that its relations with Japan remain the backbone of its security in Northeast Asia.[10]

Lastly, a point about China in the US calculations in East Asia. Given the kind of highly interdependent relationship between China and the US, especially in the current scenario of global economic crisis, it is a serious dilemma in the minds of Japanese security analysts as to whether the US would provide that kind of security to Japan if there is a catastrophic attack on Japan from North Korea or China. A related but similar concern in Japan stems from the fact that a closer Sino-US partnership could possibly widen the “gap between Tokyo’s and Washington’s security perspectives” and could weaken the US security commitment.[11]

Similarly, there is a greater sense of apprehension on the minds of Japanese security officials on the US intention to punish North Korea for its nuclear- and missile related activities. This was clearly evident as early as in the 1994 crisis. Imposition of sanctions would have been considered provocative and as “declaration of war,” so the US was quick to enter into an agreement and brought Pyongyang back into the non-proliferation order on the condition that no force will be employed on North Korea.[12] The move was exemplary from the conflict resolution framework, although the US’ response was not necessarily in tune with its extended deterrence commitments to Japan.[13] This sense has been best captured by Green and Sakamoto in their analysis when they state that “while strategic conversion underlies a broader level of support for the alliance in both countries than ever before [at the end of the Cold War], there is increasing tactical disagreement about how to manage relations. This soron sansei/kakuron hantai (agreement in principle/disagreement on the specifics is emerging as the greatest challenge for alliance in the future.”[14]

Another issue complicating the US-Japan security alliance is Obama’s recent push towards global disarmament. Tokyo will be forced to choose between a secure nuclear umbrella or nuclear abolition in the face of serious threats from Pyongyang. Support for Washington giving up its nuclear arsenal is intricately tied to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. For now, Japan feels it still needs to be protected under the U.S. nuclear umbrella. And until it no longer considers North Korea's nuclear weapons a threat, it will be hard for Tokyo to support the global zero movement. Japanese security analysts believe that so long as the Japanese government needs the nuclear umbrella, ‘Zero’ or nuclear disarmament could remain just a dream.
[1] Some of these aspects have been dealt with in great details in Daniel A. Pinkston and Kazutaka Sakurai, “Japan Debates Preparing for Future Preemptive Strikes against North Korea,” The Korean Journal of Defense Analysis, vol. XVIII, no. 4, Winter 2006, pp. 95-121, available at
[2] See, Christopher Layne, “From Preponderance to Offshore Balancing: America’s Future Grand Strategy,” International Security, vol. 22, no. 1, Summer 1997, p. 104. The concept has become even more problematic with the relative decline of the US power and its capability to protect the interests of the allies and the nature of new threats.
[3] Some of these thoughts have been articulated also by Michael J. Green and Katsuhisa Furukawa, “Japan: New Nuclear Realism,” in Muthiah Alagappa, The Long Shadow: Nuclear Weapons and Security in 21st Century Asia (Stanford University Press: Stanford, California, 2008) p. 354.
[4] As early as in 1997, Pentagon was contemplating reduction of US forces in Asia, due to cost considerations. See, Paul Richter, “US Pacific Troop Strength May Be Cut, Admiral Says,” Los Angeles Times, February 04, 1997, p. A14, cited in Christopher Layne, “From Preponderance to Offshore Balancing: America’s Future Grand Strategy,” International Security, vol. 22, no. 1, Summer 1997, p. 109.
[5] Christopher Layne, “From Preponderance to Offshore Balancing: America’s Future Grand Strategy,” International Security, vol. 22, no. 1, Summer 1997, pp. 95-96.
[6] Dan Blumethal, “The Erosion of US Power in Asia,” Far Eastern Economic Review, May 01, 2009, available at
[7] The Obama Administration is believed to be reducing the missile defense budget by $1.4 billion. See, Jim Kouri, “Obama Imitates Clinton with Major Defense Budget Cuts,” Pacific Freeze, April 13, 2009, available at
[8] Dan Blumethal, “The Erosion of US Power in Asia,” Far Eastern Economic Review, May 01, 2009, available at
[9] Analysts in Washington note that exporting F-22 stealth fighters could potentially impede the “strategically important Sino-US relations.” Meanwhile, Japan is believed to be developing a Japanese stealth fighter, called Shinshin, meaning the heart of God. Japan has allocated about 8.5 billion yen in the next financial year for the purpose. Japan plans to spend a total of a total of 39.4 billion yen for the fighter programme until the fiscal year 2015. The US might be thinking of replacing F-22 Raptor with F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, but the issue remains that F-35 cannot be a replacement. Although both are of the current generation, the F-22 is clearly a superior fighter that ensures air superiority whereas F-35 is intended primarily as a ground attack aircraft. The other more important capability remains that F-22 is a “first strike” weapon if armed with nukes, and with a 1.5 Mach speed, it would have been an apt system for Japan. Given the short duration of a missile (once launched) from North Korea, F-22 would have been the perfect weapon system. See, Kosuke Takahashi, “Japan Frets over the US’s F-22s,” Asia Times, February 05, 2009, available at; Dennis Sevakis, “Killing the F-22,” American Thinker, April 11, 2009, available at
[10] Even with all the reductions, it might be wrong to conclude that the US’ commitment towards Japan might be reducing. In fact, the US military commitment has been evident through a range of steps that it has taken including, its joint development of missile defence system with Japan and possibly Taiwan; its deployment of F-22A Raptors in Japan and so on. Interestingly, the US decision with regard to a defence contract showed US determination regarding Asia-Pacific. Pentagon opting for a tanker aircraft (Northrop Grumman/ EADS) which “can fly the longer distances, and carrying more people and cargo, required for rapid, trans-Pacific Ocean deployments” made it amply clear the US priorities. This is believed to be in tune with the priorities set out in the QDR that stated a “strategic shift from Atlantic to Pacific oceans” while particularly looking at potential hot spots like North Korea, China/ Taiwan and even the Southeast Asian region ripe with Islamic terrorism and so on. See, “Tanker Award Shows Pacific Strategy,”, March 06, 2008, available at
[11] Brad Glosserman, “Japan Peers into the Abyss,” PacNet Newsletter #20, March 20, 2008, cited in Emma Chanlett-Avery and Mary Beth Nikitin, “Japan’s Nuclear Future: Policy Debate, Prospects, and US Interests,” CRS Report for Congress, February 19, 2009, available at
[12] Joel S. Wit, Daniel B. Poneman, Robert L. Gallucci, Going Critical: The First North Korean Nuclear Crisis (Washington DC: Brookings Institution Press, 2004), pp. 55-56. Cited in “Chapter Four: The 1993-94 Nuclear Crisis,” PhD Thesis, Aberystwyth University, UK, pp. 103-04, available at
[13] This is another area where Japan feels that the US does not share its concerns vis a vis North Korea. US’ soft pedaling on the North Korean issue could also widen the gap between Tokyo and Washington in their strategic perspectives. This view is also expressed by some other security analysts. See, Brad Glosserman, “Nuclear Basics for the Alliance,” PacNet Newsletter, #21, April 19, 2007, cited in Emma Chanlett-Avery and Mary Beth Nikitin, “Japan’s Nuclear Future: Policy Debate, Prospects, and US Interests,” CRS Report for Congress, February 19, 2009, available at
[14] Michael Jonathan Green and Kazuya Sakamoto, “The US-Japan Alliance after the Cold War,” in Yoichi Funabashi, Alliance Tomorrow: Security Arrangements after the Cold War (The Tokyo Foundation: Tokyo, 2001), p. 48. See also, Michael J. Green, “Asia in the Debate on American Grand Strategy,” Naval War College Review, Winter 2009, available at;col1.
[1] Michael J. Green and Katsuhisa Furukawa, “Japan: New Nuclear Realism,” in Muthiah Alagappa, The Long Shadow: Nuclear Weapons and Security in 21st Century Asia (Stanford University Press: Stanford, California, 2008) p. 348.
[2] In fact, Terumasa Nakanishi argues that with Japan going nuclear, it will improve Japan’s diplomatic position vis a vis China than weaken and isolate it. See, Terumasa Nakanishi, Nihonkoku Kakubushou heno Ketsudan (Japan’s Decision to be Armed with Nuclear Weapons), Shokun!, August 2003, pp. 14-58, cited in Michael J. Green and Katsuhisa Furukawa, “Japan: New Nuclear Realism,” in Muthiah Alagappa, The Long Shadow: Nuclear Weapons and Security in 21st Century Asia (Stanford University Press: Stanford, California, 2008) p. 357.
[3] Emma Chanlett-Avery and Mary Beth Nikitin, “Japan’s Nuclear Future: Policy Debate, Prospects, and US Interests,” CRS Report for Congress, February 19, 2009, available at
[4] Emma Chanlett-Avery and Mary Beth Nikitin, “Japan’s Nuclear Future: Policy Debate, Prospects, and US Interests,” CRS Report for Congress, February 19, 2009, available at
[1] Isabel Reynolds, “North Korea Rocket Revives Japan Pre-emptive Strike Talk,” Reuters UK, April 06, 2009, available at
[2] Liberal Democratic Party Policy Research Council, “Proposal, Japan’s New Defense Policy – for a Secure, Peaceful Japan,” March 30, 2004, available at, cited in Daniel A. Pinkston and Kazutaka Sakurai, “Japan Debates Preparing for Future Preemptive Strikes against North Korea,” The Korean Journal of Defense Analysis, vol. XVIII, no. 4, Winter 2006, pp. 95-121, available at
[3] Daniel A. Pinkston and Kazutaka Sakurai, “Japan Debates Preparing for Future Preemptive Strikes against North Korea,” The Korean Journal of Defense Analysis, vol. XVIII, no. 4, Winter 2006, pp. 95-121, available at
[4] “Our Very Own Preemptive Option,” Editorial, The Japan Times, July 18, 2006, available at See also, “Anthony Faiola, “In Japan. Tough Talk About Preemptive Capability,” The Washington Post, July 11, 2006, available at
[5] “Our Very Own Preemptive Option,” Editorial, The Japan Times, July 18, 2006, available at
[6] “Reinvasion Plans Reach Severe Level,” Korean Central News Agency, July 26, 2006, available at The English version of the editorial is a short summary without the citations of Japanese officials. The English version is available as “Japanese Authorities’ Theory of ‘Preemptive Attack’ on DPRK
Assailed,” Korean Central News Agency, July 26, 2006, available at For English versions of remarks by Abe, Aso and Nukaga, see Kyodo News Agency, “Japan Needs Debate on Possessing Capability to Attack Foreign Bases–Official,” BBC Monitoring International reports, July 9, 2006, in Lexis-Nexis, available at; Hiroko Nakata, “First Strike Permitted if Attack Imminent: Abe Hitting Missiles Seen as Self-defense,” Japan Times, July 11, 2006, in Lexis-Nexis, available at; “Japan Has Right to Protect Itself from N. Korea Aggression–Foreign Minister,” AFX–Asia, July 9, 2006, in Lexis-Nexis, available at, cited in Daniel A. Pinkston and Kazutaka Sakurai, “Japan Debates Preparing for Future Preemptive Strikes against North Korea,” The Korean Journal of Defense Analysis, vol. XVIII, no. 4, Winter 2006, pp. 95-121, available at
[7] Japan Economic News Wire, “LDP Begins Debate on Possession of Capability to Attack Enemy Base,” Kyodo News Service, August 04, 2006, in Lexis-Nexis, available at, cited in Daniel A. Pinkston and Kazutaka Sakurai, “Japan Debates Preparing for Future Preemptive Strikes against North Korea,” The Korean Journal of Defense Analysis, vol. XVIII, no. 4, Winter 2006, pp. 95-121, available at
[8] Daniel A. Pinkston and Kazutaka Sakurai, “Japan Debates Preparing for Future Preemptive Strikes against North Korea,” The Korean Journal of Defense Analysis, vol. XVIII, no. 4, Winter 2006, pp. 95-121, available at