Passing through JMDF Port of Maizuru in Kyoto, Japan (the red pindrop) today I noticed that all her destroyers were at sea. Note Maizuru is the closest naval base to North Korea’s east coast. Maizuru has three destroyers the JDS Atago, JDS Shimakaze and JDS Myoko. The Atago and Shimakaze carry the SM-3 Anti ballistic missile system which theoretically can shoot Kim Jong Un’s rockets.
The Maizuru Regional District Command is responsible for defending the central part of the Sea of Japan, from Akita Prefecture in the north-east of Honshu down to Shimane Prefecture, in south-western Honshu. It participated in the search for and subsequent chase of two North Korean ‘spy ships’ that were found o the Noto Peninsula in March 1999. A detachment of SH-60J Sea Hawk patrol helicopters from the Tateyama, Chiba Prefecture air base has been deployed to Maizuru. The Maizuru District HQ depends on the underwater surveillance stations at Wakkanai, Rebun Island and Matsumae at the northern end of the Sea of Japan, and in the Tsushima Straits at the southern end, to keep it appraised of submarine movements into its area of responsibility
It is not hard to deduce these ships are on high alert in the Sea of Japan. Sea drills and war games are one thing.
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.
Japan has every right to be nervous about its borders. Many people point to the biggest threat to Japan being Nth Korea but it is Russia and Japan. Reading through the latest Japanese Self Defense White Paper and this is what they reported:
“Regarding aircraft, since the resumption of patrol activities by its strategic aviation units in 2007, Russia has been increasing flights by long-range bombers and carrying out flights of Tu-95 long-range bombers and Tu-160 long-range bombers which are refueled in mid- flight and supported by A-50 early warning aircraft and Su-27 fighters. Moreover, due to an upturn in its fuel situation, among other factors, pilot training time is on an upward trend, and in September 2011 and March and December 2013 Tu-95 long-range bombers, etc. took a route that circled the area encompassing Japan. There also seems to be an increase in activities such as flights approaching Japan and exercises and training, as exemplifed by the abnormal flights of Russian aircraft detected on seven consecutive days and the flights by six individual Tu-95 long-range bombers on one single day between March and April 2014″
The same goes for China. Japanese fighters have been scrambled to intercept Chinese aircraft approaching Japan’s territory which has quadrupled in 4 years. The idea of doing this is to test how quickly Japan can scramble fighters to intercept.
On November 16 and 17, 2013, a Tu-154 intelligence gathering aircraft flew over the East China Sea on two consecutive days. On November 23, the Chinese government announced that it established the “East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ)” including the Senkaku Islands which China described as if they were a part of China’s “territory,” that it obligated aircraft flying in the said zone to abide by the rules set forth by the Chinese Ministry of National Defense, and that the Chinese Armed Forces would take “defensive emergency measures” in the case where such aircraft does not follow the instructed procedures. Japan is deeply concerned about such measures, which are profoundly dangerous acts that unilaterally change the status quo in the East China Sea, escalating the situation, and that could cause unintended consequences in the East China Sea. Furthermore, the measures unduly infringe the freedom of over flight over the high seas, which is the general principle of international law. Japan is demanding China to revoke any measures that could infringe upon the freedom of over flight over the high seas. The United States, the Republic of Korea (ROK), Australia, and the European Union (EU) have expressed concern about China’s establishment of such zone.