Friday, November 14, 2014

Side-lining Captain Fanell

American naval officers who publically raise concerns about China’s military capabilities and intentions can find themselves sidelined, their careers stunted. Such is the case of Capt. James Fanell, formerly the chief of naval intelligence for the U.S. Pacific Fleet.

Fanell was recently reassigned from his sensitive intelligence post. His remarks at several forums that China is preparing for war with Japan were embarrassing to the navy’s leadership, which is focused on building ties with a newly assertive China’s military.

In a controversial address to the West 2014 Naval Institute Symposium in San Diego in early 2014, Capt. Fanell said, “we have witnessed a massive and amphibious military enterprise and concluded that the People’s Liberation Army has been given a new task, to conduct a short, sharp war to destroy Japanese forces in the East China Sea, following with what can only be expected a seizure of the Senkaku, or even an island in the southern Ryukyu.”
The captain addressed his concerns mainly to specialized publications such as the Proceedings of the U.S. Naval Institute, but they were picked up by major civilian outlets such as The New York Times and the Stars and Stripes newspapers, embarrassing Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, who was making an official visit to China at the time.

Fanell spoke in unusually blunt and even colorful language, making it more likely that the remarks would be picked up in the civilian media. In particular was his use of the term “short, sharp war” to describe the coming conflict. In referring to China, Washington brass usually speak in bromides.
Last week it was reported in the Navy Times that Fanell had been reassigned from his post as chief of naval intelligence and reportedly is to serve as an aide to a rear admiral. It is unusual to assign to full captain to serve as an aide to a relatively low-ranking flag-officer, suggesting that the brass doesn’t want him to be making any more lectures.

“If you talk about [the subject] openly, you can cross a line and unnecessarily antagonize,” said Admiral Jonathan Greenert, Chief of Naval Operations. It is the official view that The United States welcomes China’s rise.
Fanell also had harsh words to describe actions of China’s Coast Guard, which he calls a “fulltime maritime harassment service” specifically designed to advance China’s strategic interests in the East and South China Seas.

The Coast Guard services of both countries are the front-line troops in the festering and dangerous dispute with Tokyo over ownership of the Senkaku Islands (also known to the Chinese as the Daioyu) as well as contested islets and atolls in the South China Sea.
The Japanese Coast Guard regularly patrols waters around the Senkaku, while the Chinese Coast Guard frequently intrudes in Japan’s claimed territorial waters. The Japanese ships warn them with loudspeakers to leave the waters, while the foreign ministry lodges a protest which Beijing ignores

China is building large patrol cutters at an “astonishing rate,” the captain said. Since year 2000 thirteen new vessels have joined the maritime service, and more are in China’s next five-year plan. China used to convert aging destroyers for the service but recently has begun to acquire purpose-built ships. Indeed, in early 2014, Beijing proudly announced it was building the world’s largest coast guard cutter, a 10,000 ton vessel, as yet unnamed.

“Unlike the U.S. Coast Guard, the cutters of the [Chinese Coast Guard] have no other mission but to harass other nations into submitting to China’s extravagant claims,” says Fanell. “Mundane maritime governance tasks such as search and rescue, regulating fisheries, law enforcement or ice-breaking, are handled by other agencies.”
The U.S. Navy brass itself is eager to cultivate relations with counterparts in China’s armed forces through joint exercises and frequent military exchanges, believing this is the best way to maintain peace and avoid situations that might get out of hand leading to conflict. Clearly Captain Fanell’s type of plain talk is not welcome.

This year the U.S. Navy strongly urged that Beijing to send warships to participate in the annual RIMPAC fleet exercise off of Hawaii, the largest such exercise in the pacific. China did dispatch a warship for the exercise, but also an intelligence gathering ship, creating the unusual position of a nation spying on an exercise in which it was a participant
The Fanell incident is reminiscent of the civil servants in the British government, who supplied the intelligence on the progress of Germany’s rearmament program to Winston Churchill, when he was out of power in the 1930s, except that there is no similar figure in the U.S. to be their champion.

Moreover, it doesn’t take secret whistle-blowers to inform the world that China has been engaged in a kind of crash re-armament program for at least the last decade. Only last week it unveiled its newest stealth fighter, the J-31, at the Shenzhen Air Show
It is perhaps ironic that while Fanell was speaking in San Diego, while  just a few miles to the north, Japanese Ground Self Defense Force troops were storming the beaches of the U.S. Marine Corps base at Camp Pendleton. They were part of a newly constituted force of soldiers trained in amphibious landing techniques to potentially recapture Japanese islands seized by the Chinese, presumably in a “short, sharp war.”

Todd Crowell is the author of the forthcoming The Coming War Between China and Japan.



Friday, November 07, 2014

Abe's Women Troubles

No, not that kind of trouble.

In an effort to burnish his avowed policy of empowering women, sometimes known as “womenomics”, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe appointed five women to the cabinet in the September 3 re-shuffle.
It is not the most women in a Japanese cabinet – former premier Junichiro Koizumi also had five women in one of his cabinets, but it is unusual for Japan, which also lags most every democracy in the world for female MPs.

The well-intentioned move has turned into a major embarrassment for Abe. Japan has never seen the spectacle of two cabinet members, both of them women, resign their posts in one day.
Yoko Obuchi,  and Midori Matsushima both resigned their cabinet posts last Monday (Oct. 20) to take responsibility for public fund accounting mistakes made by their staff and  support groups that some say verge on buying votes.

In her case, the staff handed out free tickets to a famous singer’s concert. Matsushima’s mistake, apparently was handing out handheld fans with her profile on printed on them.
Known as uchiwa in Japanese, they are the kind of thing that stores hand out for free to advertise their wares. Since the resignation story broke, hand fans with Matsushima’s profile on them have been selling for $100 or more on eBay.

The ink was hardly dry on Obuchi’s resignation letter than her replacement was in trouble. Yoichi Miyazawa, had to admit that some of his staff took supporters to a Hiroshima S&M bar and listed the $170 expense as “political entertainment”.
The new and possibly soon to be ex- minister told reporters, “It is true that such expenses were made, but I did not go there at all.” He said that sadomasochism “is not my hobby.”
Abe also appointed Yoko Kamikawa to replace Matsushima as Minister of Justice, so the number of women in the cabinet is just minus one.

Japan’s campaign financial reporting laws are complex, and to outsiders often seem picayune, and they trip-up many a politician. Hardly any government gets by without at least one minister resigning over a gaffe or financing scandal. It’s practically an occupational hazard.
It was considered remarkable that the Abe government managed 20 months in office without a single resignation. This was in stark contrast to his first term in office (2006-2007) in which three ministers resigned and one committed suicide in one year.

Such scandals, however do not necessarily ruin careers. Obuchi, for instance, remains and MP and being only 40 almost certainly will return to office after a couple years on the back-benches. Before this latest incident, she was on track to becoming Japan’s first female prime minister.

The opposition in parliament, mostly moribund for Abe’s first 20 months in office, has suddenly come alive, sensing blood in the water and gleefully demanding further investigations and even criminal charges.  Abe’s swift action in accepting the two resignation may have neutralized the political fallout – provided no new scandals emerge.

But it is not just the two short-time ministers among the five that are causing Abe occasional heart-burn. Obuchi was a kind of mainstream politician but the other three come from the far-right wing of the Liberal Democratic Party.
Led by Internal Affairs Minister Sanae Taikaichi, a vocal advocate for making regular visits to the controversial Yasukuni Shrine, three lady ministers visited the shrine during the recent autumn festival. Abe did not join them but sent an offering as prime minister.

The Japanese leader is angling for a summit meeting with China’s President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of November’s meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, and thus does not want to irritate Beijing any more than necessary at this particular time.
The Chinese government strenuously objects to Yasukuni visits by the prime minister or any members of his cabinet, contending that the shrine glorifies Japan’s invasions of China. Seoul also complains that the visits sanctify Japan’s colonization of their country in the first half of the 20th century.

Besides making a formal protest, Beijing dispatched several coast guard vessels into Japanese-controlled waters around the Senkaku/Daioyu islands, the disputed uninhabited rocks in the East China Sea.
Eriko Yamatani, chairman of the national public safety committee, that is the police, and minister in charge of Japanese abducted by North Korea embarrassed herself being photographed standing next to members of the Zaitokukai, an anti-Korean group that routinely hurls invectives at Koreans living in Japan.

Expecting to answer questions on the abduction issue during a press conference at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan, she ran into a buzz saw of angry questions asking her to explain her possible association with hate groups. She maintained that she didn’t know the people were with the Zaitokugai.
Abe handed the portfolio of female empowerment to an anti-feminist, Haroku Arimura, whose view are well in in line with cultural conservatives in the U.S. She opposes women keeping their maiden name after marriage, a major issue with Japanese feminists, or allowing a woman to succeed to the Imperial throne.

Takaichi subscribes to most of the right-wing tropes on Japan’s past history: namely that the “comfort women” issue was a Korean libel; that the Nanjing massacre never happened or was grossly exaggerated; that Japan fought purely defensive war in China.
Most of her and the other minister’s conservative views would not truly upset Abe, as he holds many of the same views himself. It is just that as prime minister he has to be more circumspect in voicing them.