Thursday, January 28, 2016

Tokyo Briefings, Day 4

This was the last day of briefings (see here for day one, day two, and day three).

We started at the Research Institute for Policy Studies where the China focus (North Korea got way under-played during our time here) was prevalent again.  The discussion focused on China's efforts to develop a global strategy to overtake the US.  Again, we got the message that Japan is looking more for political support from Canada and not military stuff.  This led to a conversation with my fellow travelers--does Canada care about Japan?  Will the new government sell out Japan for access to the Sopranos-esque markets of China?

Front of MoD.  Did not have time to take
better picture
We then went over the Ministry of Defense.  It is not near all of the other government buildings but a bit distant.  Symbolism much?  A big, funky building (interior courtyard looks a bit like key last scene from Spectre) that seems underoccupied.  No Pentagon-esque flow of heaps of people, which distinguishes this building from pretty much the rest of Tokyo.  Anyhow, we talked with someone fairly high up--he had a great view!  What did we learn?
  • That North Korean threat is serious.
  • That Canada and Japan are similar in at least one thing: the fundamental aspect of each country's security starts with the same question--what is the US up to?  Each depends critically on the US and not much on anyone else.
  • The focus of defense these days is mobility/readiness.  In the old days of the cold war, the focus was holding the line in a very conventional sense up north vs. Russia.  These days, the focus is being able to move to wherever a (Chinese) threat develops.  
    • This led to my question of: why not put anti-access/area denial type stuff (anti-air/anti-ship missiles) on the Senkaku Islands to deter the Chinese?  Two can play the A2AD game.  The response was that this was provocative.  BUT the Japanese move right now is to develop amphib capabilities to take back the islands if they are seized.  Um, two problems with that: a) this would put Japan in a dangerous position of having to escalate after a Chinese fait accompli; and b) pretty sure the neighbors find Japan's developing amphib capabilities to be in the same ballpark of provoking.
    •  To be clear, the Japanese SDF is stationing stuff nearby and is patrolling.  
  •  US commitment to Japan includes Senkaku Islands
  • The defense budget is going up and next year will be biggest ever.
  • The near misses with Chinese planes were a couple of years ago and did not continue.  However, not hotline.  Continuing discussion of communications mechanism for "unplanned encounters" resumed but not any deals made.
  • Canada's role?  Could be capacity building among the ASEAN countries since Canada is far more established democracy with good governance.
  • I realized that a key reason why Canada is not as much of a Pacific power as Japan would like is that there is no obvious place for Canada to do stuff as there is no architecture.  In Europe, Canada slides easily into roles via NATO.  No such equivalent.  Plus, of course, no treaty in Pacific for defending anyone--no Article V here for Canada.
  • Rob Huebert asks really good questions (and I am not just saying that because he reads my posts here and then tells me that) and had some insights for how Canada perceives threats.
  • My big contribution to Japan's defense policy: urging the MoD to send the defense attache, who is based in DC but is responsible for both US and Canada, to spend much more time in Canada while the Defense Review is being conducted.  US defense policy will not change this year--only after the 2016 election--but the future of Canadian foreign/defense policy is being written right now, so influence it now, not later.
We then met with someone who works on the procurement side.  Most interesting meeting room ever:
  • We discussed Japan's policies for defense technology cooperation, which mostly is restricted to US, UK, Australia, France and India.  Not Canada. 
  • I asked about Japanese procurement--that they don't seem to have many problems (I think that is mostly my ignorance), so I asked how their system is broken since democracies tend to have lousy procurement but are broken in different ways.  They have had scandals that don't affect the programs, but do affect credibility.   
  • Fun explanation of their submarine program.  That there is open competition but due to limited capabilities for each shipyard, the tendency seems to be that Mitsubishi gets a contract for a sub in year 1, Kawasaki (yes, those who produce motorcycles) get contract in year 2, and then Mitsubishi gets contract in year 3.... so competition or taking turns?  You make the call.
The last meeting was at the National Institute of Defense Studies, which seems to be me to be akin to the National Defence University in DC--combo of think tank and educational program for senior officers.  Very impressive outfit. We were briefed both about the institution and their annual East Asia Strategic Review.
  • Most countries in region would prefer not to have to choose between China and US.  
  • We asked about Canada's role and the conversation turned to peacekeeping.  That they lamented the end of the Pearson Peacekeeping Centre (we heard this a few times this week).  That Japan could learn much from Canada since Japan's experience is far less and its new rules of engagement might mean more peacekeeping efforts down the road.  That Canada does a great job of generating new norms--responsibility to protect, etc--so its role in promoting/supporting/defending international order is key.  The mention of Canada's role in promoting human security probably caused some angina for a couple of my companions.
  • They were kind of flummoxed when one of my companions asked why Japan is interested in doing more peacekeeping. The NIDS people discussed Japan's desire to become a permanent member of UN.  The Cambodia effort was an easy sell to Japan as well.  More distant PKO's not so much.
And that was it.  We were left on our own for dinner so I tried out the subway system, which is both simple and complex.   Complex because it has so many different lines that seem to overlap (thank you, google maps!).  Simple because the machines can work in English, and there is plenty of bilingual signage.  More good food and finally some shopping for silly stuff.  Onto Hiroshima today and Kyoto tomorrow so the next posts will be almost all tourism and no briefing reports.

When I get back, I will write something up that summarizes what I learned and what Canada (and US) should do.  

No comments: