This cannot continue. Another missile fired across Japan’s shores. This missile flying 3,700km. Guam is technically in range by that measure. As I said on The Bolt Report, Kim’s technology will get to a point where he can become a serious threat. Taking out the threat before it gets even more capable is the only credible option. Even more biting UN sanctions haven’t stopped his quest to launch more missiles in utter defiance. My key thought is that China will be coerced into forcing regime change. It cannot afford to lose the strategic buffer North Korea provides but it can even less afford US military action on its back door. Unilateral action by China will not be frowned on by the majority of the rest of the world if Kim Jong Un is neutered.
Some discussions have also questioned whether he lobs missiles over Tokyo airspace. The danger here is a failure through dense commercial air traffic lanes. In any event the world community can’t sit by and let this oppressive regime continue a weapons program to use for extortion. Trump was on a morning breakfast program yesterday discussing North Korea where he effectively said for “China to start taking action”.
As I wrote last week, Japan’s entire Aegis destroyer fleet from Maizuru is at sea. They carry the SM-3 anti-ballistic missile system. Japan cannot take North Korea’s actions as anything other than the gravest threat to national security.
This crisis has to have an ending. It can only be Kim Jong Un’s. Watch China’s movements closely from here. They’re reaching breaking point on strategy.
You have to hand it to the Italians for design and flair. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) launched its new Alfa Romeo Giulia model in Tokyo tonight. It is a car I’ve long been fond of given my father owned a 1970s version. In Japan FCA sales have almost quadrupled in 10 years to over 20,000 cars. Chrysler/Jeep sales are up 10x over that period as well. American cars have always struggled in Japan for the obvious reasons of narrow streets being unsuitable for Yank tanks. Jeep has put one of its cars on a photocopier and shrunk it for Japan. Boom. Target client needs and away you go. FCA CEO Pontus Haggstrom has steered the company for the lst 9 years to turn it into the fastest growing foreign brand in Japan. Impressive.
The thing I loved most about the new Giulia Quadrifoglio is that it hasn’t been built in a gluten-free multi-ethnic factory which has one eye on Johnny Polarbear. It is pure noise, speed and emotion. As the head of design said, “we want a car that rules the heart not the head”. Too true. No wonder the tag line of Alfa is “la meccanica delle emozioni’.
The full interview can be found on the August 30 podcast from 21:17-34:30 where I discuss Japan’s Constitution Article 9 and 96 and the changing face of Japan’s Self Defense Force moving from “static deterrence” to “dynamic deterrence” The wheels to defend herself are already well under way
What many are probably unaware of is the changing nature of Japan’s threats in the region and how it isn’t just North Korea. Russia and China have aggressively stepped up their activity in aand around Japan’s territorial waters. In June last year I noted the sharp jump in aircraft and naval activity here.
If you refer to the Japanese Self Defence Force (SDF) White Papers it is clear that the current softly softly approach is completely incompatible with its defence needs. Unbeknownst to many Japan converted its SDF from an agency reporting to the PM to a full blown ministry which can apply for its own funding.
Japan is quickly developing its SDF to be ‘dynamic’ as opposed to ‘passive’. It’s security issues demand it. The latest SDF White Paper can be found here.
Has populism has found its way to Tokyo? Not really. PM Shinzo Abe’s LDP, which has ruled Japan at a national level for decades) bar a few periods was smashed in the Tokyo Municipal Assembly elections yesterday. Tokyo Gov Yuriko Koike had split from the LDP to form the Tomin First (Tokyo-ites First) Party. She won 49 seats (out of 50 contested) from 6 held before the election in the 127 seat Municipal Assembly. The LDP went from 57 to 23, 15 less that its worst ever showing to date. Even the Communist Party gained seats at the expense of the LDP.
Koike’s popularity (despite sliding from 74% to 59% over the dithering around Tsukiji Fish Market redevelopment) has been driven by the idea of ‘transparency’ in government policy decision making, a clamp down on wasteful spending and accountable government.
Abe’s LDP on the other hand has been embroiled in scandal after scandal and citizens of the capitol were not prepared to be taken for mugs (although only 33% showed up to vote). Whether it be the out-of-control screaming of recently resigned LDP member Mayuko Toyoda to her staffer, the favouritism shown in the Kake Gakuen scandal to PM Abe’s long term friend, the sale of government land at a 90% discount to set up a nationalist school (Moritomo Gakuen) or even the PM being booed on the campaign trail, voters let the LDP know that they’re sick of old school establishment politics. A national election is still some 18 months off.
The bigger issue being debated is whether Koike’s party could make serious inroads into the LDP at a national level putting Abenomics and ultra loose monetary policy on the back burner. The LDP’s national junior coalition party (Komeito) had backed Koike’s Tomin First since last year after the LDP balked at salary cuts for Tokyo Municipal Assembly politicians.
Abe tried to hose down the talks of the rise of Tomin First arguing they were like the Japan New Party which floundered after success in the 1993 Tokyo Municipal Assembly elections. They promised much but ended up disbanding despite Koike being 2IC.
Abe will no doubt crank up public spending in the regional areas to support prefectures with rapidly aging populations. What many overlook is that Japan is still backed by an aging society. Despite all the wishes of the youth for reform, the elderly will continue to grow as a % of the voter base as the population decreases. This means policy will need to be serving the silver-haired.
Abe can’t dismiss these dreadful results out of hand. The citizens of Tokyo are livid at the LDP’s antics. Yet a 33% (+2%) turnout suggests voter apathy is still alive and kicking. Abe isn’t going to be finished by this but the party needs a long hard look at itself. The voters are suitably upset. Is this a wave of populism a la Trump or Brexit? Not really. Japan continues to suffer from lacking a credible opposition which means inexperienced parties often fail in their first term. Every now and again the LDP gets sent a warning shot before business as usual returns.