Tuesday, February 22, 2005
Look at all that long Chinese coastline....
The important news of the week happened prior to George W. Bush's trip to Belgium. The European Trip is designed as window dressing to make Continental politicians feel important. The real business of state happened just prior to Bush's departure with Condoleezza Rice.
A "Two Plus Two" meeting between Condoleezza Rice and Donald Rumsfeld on the one hand and Japanese Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura and Defense Minister Yoshinori Ono on the other took place in the runup to Bush's departure for Europe. The agreement renewed and deepened the security treaty between the U.S. and Japan and, of greatest import, placed Taiwan as
an issue of mutual interest between the U.S. and Japan.
Make no mistake, the Japanese knew exactly what they were doing and exactly who they were urinating on.
The Chinese have been playing a double game for some time. They have kept Mr. Kim on a bit of a leash, with enough slack to allow him to cause trouble for us down the line. The last thing the Chinese wanted was a raucously independent Republic of Korea on the Yalu River, filled with grievance at both Japan and China. So they let Kim have his bombs, secure in the knowledge that they would build up enough chits with the Americans and the Japanese for them to have to come to Beijing and pay the danegeld to get a settlement. North Korea's primitive fission devices would never be used against China, so the mandarinate in Beijing has thought of ways to use the Chia Pet as a catspaw in their larger design to exhaust America in the Pacific and replace her as the dominant power. And they talked a good game to the west, telling all who could hear that Kim simply was hard to deal with, and so on.
"Secwetawy Wice, I wiwl make you my chocwate wuv bunny yet! You wiwl not wesist my bouffant and my pwatforwm shooz!"
Meantime, the Chinese Navy has grown in capability and striking power. Chinese maritime and naval shipbuilding is nonstop. The Japanese see this. Late last year, the Japanese discovered a Chicom sub in Home Island waters. This was bad medicine, (bad juju in diplomatic parlance) and the Japanese knew that the Chinese were sending them a message. So Japan decided to send one back. And this one stuck. There is no way that the Chinese will misunderstand this understanding.
This is a naval pact. The U.S. Pacific Fleet and the Japanese Combined Fleet will effectively become a single navy. Its mission will be to keep the sea lanes open between the straits of Malacca and the Japanese Home Islands. Conversely, it will have an offensive mission; bring the main fleet of the People's Liberation Army Navy to battle in a decisive action and sink their fleet (such an action will take place in the Phillipine Sea-look at the map) while at the same time turning back an attempted landing on Taiwan.
Tall freaking order. However, other than the Royal Navy, I can't think of two navies who could pull this off. If you combine America's air carrier task forces with Japan's very modern frigate and destroyer forces (and her nascent carrier force, she is working along these lines as well), you have a naval alliance that simply is unbeatable. This really narrows the military choices available to the Mandarinate, and consequently, reduces the political choices as well.
A couple of things need to happen on this side of the Pacific.
First, we need to make the final turn of our attention away from Europe and to Asia. The notion that there must be a rapproachment between the EU and the United States is driven, if by nothing else, by our strategic needs in the Middle East. I suspect that Europe has a lot less intrinsic strategic value in our calculus' than it did before September 11th, and I treat this trip to Bruxelles as a boatload of merde. Shoot, they don't even like us anymore! I half suspect that we are getting in bed with the Japanese as the first step in a quadripartite pact among the U.S., Japan, India, and Australia (the Sumatra Earthquake Four, if you'll recall) to safeguard the Pacific from a Chinese Hegemony. The EU is throwing in its lot with the Chinese (witness Chirac's and Schroeder's eagerness to sell weapons to Beijing) in an attempt to balance the Super Power. We've simply stolen a march on both the Europeans and the Chinese, and have beat them at their own game-at least for now. Key player to watch: authoritarian Russia.
Second, we have to solve the naval shipbuilding crisis in this country. The littoral warfare program may be the best idea that has come along in some time; heavily armed littoral warfare "Streetfighter" ships designed to inflict maximum damage on Chinese capital ships, destroyers, frigates, and invasion escorts. This program will be commented on further on this blog; we'll have to see what comes of it in future years. Numbers and information will tell the tale of the Next War.
We promised to sell Taiwan eight diesel-electric submarines in 2001. The US does not build diesel-electic submarines... but Japan DOES. They build very GOOD diesel-electric submarines, in fact.