Yesterday, we published a report about an incident involving South Korea, Japan and China that nearly escalated into a full-blown skirmish, as Japan and South Korea were forced to order intercepts of Chinese military aircraft as a squadron of fighters and bombers flew over the waters between South Korea and Japan – an area that has historically been off limits to Chinese aircraft. It wasn’t until after the Chinese aircraft had dispersed that Chinese military commanders disclosed that the intrusion was part of a “military exercise.”
When China’s South Korean counterparts called to ask why they hadn’t been given advanced warning of the drills, the Chinese authority in charge reportedly responded that the element of surprise was part of the drill.
In recent months, Beijing has insisted that it needs to prepare its military in the event of an armed conflict on the Korean peninsula – an excuse for bulking up its military presence at an uncomfortably close proximity to its geopolitical archrival, Japan.
In response, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is accelerating Japan’s militarization as the country inches closer to abandoning its post-WWII policy of pacifism. The latest example of this shift was highlighted by the Wall Street Journal in a report published Wednesday about Japan’s push to build a military installation equipped with antiaircraft and antiship weapons on the island of Ishigaki, a Japanese holding situated near Taiwan, and just miles away from a Chinese waters.
Of course, Japan is facing a more immediate threat in North Korea – which has twice fired intermediate-range ballistic missiles over the Japanese island of Hokkaido. But as both powers pose increasingly immediate threats to Japanese security, Japan is being forced to swiftly build up its military deterrants as the possibiilty of an armed conflict in the region becomes increasingly less remote.
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