During the 2016 American presidential election, most of the Japanese and American media outlets, business leaders, and the American elites (called the “Eastern establishment”) said Hillary Clinton would be victorious. I believe the eight years of the Barack Obama presidency weakened both the United States and Japan, allowed China to run rampant, and resulted in North Korea becoming a nuclear power.
In contrast, President Donald Trump favors a “strong Japan” and thinks a more powerful Japan will bring peace and prosperity to East Asia. He feels a strong sense of affinity with Japan as well, and stated during his campaign that he would allow nuclear armament by Japan and South Korea. I definitely wanted him to win the election and I continually stated that he would, without being taken in by the negative “fake news” from many media outlets. Then, he actually did become president.
Two years have passed since Trump’s inauguration, and this May a survey showed an approval rating of 46%, his highest ever. On June 6, the “Just Arguments” column in the Morning Edition of the Sankei Shimbun newspaper featured Fukui Prefectural University Professor Yoichi Shimada, who wrote in detail about the growing pro-Trump sentiment in the Republican Party:
We must keep an eye on the American conservatives. After Trump’s inauguration, many senators from the ruling party kept their distance from the president. But now the Republican Party is gaining increasing solidarity (centered on Trump) because they positively evaluate his efforts to stimulate the economy and take a hard line against China. Another factor is intense resentment against liberals, who tried to block the appointment of conservative Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh through the truly foul move of falsely accusing him of sexual assault.
Trump’s fiercest opponents in the 2016 primaries were Senators Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Lindsey Graham, and Rand Paul. They are all friendly with Trump today, giving a concise picture of the current circumstances. Conservative solidarity cannot be understood without looking at the Kavanaugh incident.
The liberal faction tried to defame his character by portraying him as a serial gang rapist. This set off growing rage and energy among conservatives, and was an important reason why the Republican Party gained control of the senate in the 2018 midterms.
The Sino-American issue Shimada mentioned is described in detail in a special report from the June issue of Sentaku magazine, entitled, “Endless Sino-American Conflict Until the Chinese Communist Party Collapses.” It reads:
Ichiro Fujisaki, former Japanese ambassador to the U.S. and president of the Nakasone Peace Institute (NPI), is one of the most well-versed experts on the American situation. He wrote a warning in a recent NPI report based on this tumultuous situation. He says China is flexible against external pressure in the current Sino-American relationship. This conflict is also occurring because of the special circumstance of Trump facing an election next year, and reconciliation may be possible if there is a regime change. Fujisaki points out, “We must always keep in mind the visits to China by Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger 50 years ago,” although he says the situation today is entirely different. I feel the Japanese people, who are easily influenced, should esteem this view.
However, almost no members of the American public and Congress (ruling or opposition parties) are asking for compromise with China. A high official in the U.S. Department of State even spoke about China using taboo phrases such as “cultural differences.” Many people are publicly sharing their views that provide a logical basis for Trump’s fragmentary thinking about China. During the Cold War, the Soviet Union posed a common ideological and military threat to the U.S. and China. But in contrast, today the two countries are threatened by each other, and it seems safer to assume this antagonism will continue eternally.
I believe the Sino-American trade war is a conflict over global hegemony. The key to this fight is North Korea. North Korea’s short-range ballistic missiles launched in May do not pose a danger to the U.S., but they put China and Japan at risk. This threat would increase drastically if North Korea integrated South Korea to form a nuclear “Korean Federation” with a population of 80 million people. How should we prevent this possibility? I see a certain U.S. Air Force general every year at a New Year party in a Las Vegas hotel. He said the U.S. Armed Forces are repeatedly planning and training for a decapitation strike to take out Kim Jong Un.
The June issue of THEMIS magazine included a report by Yoshihisa Komori, entitled, “Growing American Desire for a Military Strike on North Korea as Kim Refuses to Denuclearize.” It read:
At first the American side evaluated these as projectile launches, but the North Korean authorities announced that they had launched tactical guided weapons, making it clear that missiles were tested.
The military movements at this timing (even though they are small) likely demonstrate Supreme Leader Kim’s impatience. He is asking the U.S. to reopen negotiations and lift economic sanctions. China is treating North Korea with indifference. North Korea is also asking Russia for aid. This situation suggests Kim is feeling pressured as he faces increasingly difficult domestic issues as well.
Trump’s unyielding stance is probably the reason why Kim has been seemingly cornered and put in a predicament he will use any means to resolve. Trump’s unshakeable attitude consistently includes the scenario of using a military strike as a last resort. The Trump administration has the option of taking military action against North Korea, although this is not frequently brought up in Japan.
These military options have been much discussed in Washington since early 2017, when the Trump government started full-scale efforts to make North Korea abandon nuclear weapons. This is the source of Kim’s fear, and why he started entreating the American government to negotiate denuclearization.
Military affairs are an essential factor for understanding the U.S.-North Korea issue. The U.S. can use military means to make North Korea dispose of all nuclear weapons and long-distance ballistic missiles. Moreover, it could carry out this strike in such a way to prevent all-out war on the Korean Peninsula. This plan has been repeatedly discussed inside and outside the Trump government. Let us look at an extremely specific and recent example.
Dr. Peter Vincent Pry, advisor to the Congressional EMP Commission (a U.S. Congress advisory committee), wrote a longform essay entitled, “Military options for denuclearizing North Korea” in the March 26 edition of The Washington Times, a daily newspaper for the Washington, D.C. area.
According to this essay, North Korea is striving to preserve its nuclear weapons through varied methods outside of the sanctions. The Trump administration’s current economic sanctions are probably not going to result in North Korea taking any fundamental measures to declare an intent to denuclearize.
So what should be done? Pry proposes that military actions will be the most effective way to achieve full North Korean denuclearization. He takes the unusual step of recommending an EMP attack on North Korean satellites, which goes beyond the past common wisdom of military affairs.
Pray gives three options, the first of which is shooting down North Korea’s satellites. North Korea has launched two satellites onto orbits in space, ostensibly for Earth observation. The U.S. has confirmed that Kwangmyongsong-3 Unit 2, launched in December 2012, and Kwangmyongsong-4, launched in February 2016, have both been put on their orbits.
Pry writes that these two satellites, if nuclear-armed, could cause a total blackout across North America. Therefore, destroying these satellites would ensure American security and also demonstrate the strong American will for denuclearization. Striking these satellites would not be the same as attacking North Korean territory, making it unlikely that North Korea would start all-out war with South Korea to retaliate.
Pry’s second military option is for the U.S. Armed Forces to use conventional ballistic missiles to destroy North Korea’s intercontinental ballistic missiles, intermediate-range ballistic missiles, bombers that can be equipped with nuclear weapons, and submarines, as well as the Sohae satellite launcher, Yongbyon Nuclear Complex, and clandestine uranium enrichment facility.
This plan has around 150 targets. Pry says it would be possible for the American army to could destroy these targets in a few hours by utilizing ship-born planes from three aircraft carriers, missiles, rockets, and other conventional, non-nuclear weapons. This would mostly eliminate the North Korean nuclear and missile threat to North America and other U.S. territories, such as Guam.
The third military option is a large-scale attack plan, which Pry says entails “much higher escalatory risks.” He suggests destroying around 1,000 of North Korea’s medium-range and short-range ballistic missiles.
If this strike goes as planned, North Korean missiles and nuclear weapons would no longer threaten South Korea and Japan. However, the attack would take several days, and poses a high risk of North Korea opening all-out war on South Korea.
On the topic of escalation, Pry emphasizes, “Striking quickly, surgically, against the smallest number of targets, is least likely to be misconstrued as attempting to destroy the North Korean regime in an all-out war.”
Upon first impression, this bold yet risky proposal seems extreme and eccentric. However, experts in favor of Trump say we should take note of the situation that is inspiring such suggestions.
After the second summit meeting with North Korea, other people close to the Trump government have declared they recommend military options. Graham, a Republican Party conservative who staunchly backs Trump, stated that the American government should seriously consider taking military action against North Korea to achieve denuclearization.
Patrick M. Cronin (currently Asia-Pacific security chair of the Hudson Institute), an expert who has worked in East Asian security issues for multiple Republican governments, also advocated for considering the effectiveness of military action, and said the time has come to think about non-diplomatic, coercive measures.
Looking at this trend, it appears that people inside and outside the Trump administration are actually considering military options.
Japan must now think pragmatically about how to ensure peace and make serious efforts to establish a balance of power. Constitutional revision will be essential to accomplish this. As I referred to in last month’s essay, I definitely hope Trump will visit Yasukuni Shrine when he comes to Japan for the G20 summit from June 28 to 29. This would likely silence China and South Korea, which have criticized Yasukuni in the past. We should also submit constitutional change motions in the upper and lower houses before the next House of Councillors election, while National Diet members in favor of constitutional reform occupy more than two thirds of the seats in both houses. The Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) should declare that members who do not support constitutional change will be excluded from the party, and opposing candidates will be nominated. If we do not take advantage of this timing, after the House of Councillors election powers in favor of change may no longer hold two thirds of the seats, which would take a great deal of time to regain. If North Korea integrated South Korea to form a nuclear Korean Federation during that time, and it was ordered by China to menace Japan, I think Japan would eventually end up as a Chinese autonomous region like Tibet and Uygur.
This morning, I received an e-mail from an old friend of mine who is quite knowledgeable about China. He wrote as follows:
I feel constant fear thinking about the “manners” of 1.5 billion people. Their customary behavior resembles that of brigands, pirates, and hoodlums. They can be compared to wild dogs. The million-dollar nighttime scenery of Hong Kong is changing its appearance, and it is headed towards demise. This is truly sad. The Democratic Party in Japan, a democratic country, has said nothing. This is not healthy democracy.
The Tiananmen Square Incident of 30 years ago occurred during a demonstration with one million participants. The People’s Liberation Army was brought in to subjugate the protestors. The Chinese authorities stated there had been 319 deaths, but a diplomatic document recently released for the first time in the United Kingdom indicates that 10,000 students were killed at the protest. The recent protests in Hong Kong are against the amendment to the Fugitive Offenders and Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Legislation. High-level autonomy has been allowed in Hong Kong according to the “one country, two systems” principle since the handover from the UK in 1997. The people opposed to this amendment worry that it will effectively destroy this system.
Right now, the LDP is proposing the addition of a clear stipulation about the Japan Self-Defense Forces (JSDF) to the existing constitution, but this will not make the JSDF into an army. Japan cannot gain independent self-defense without a second revision that plainly declares we will possess a military force. Only two years remain in Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s term of office, but he could be in power until 2024 if the LDP revises its regulations to permit four presidential terms. If Abe were re-elected, he would be in office for the same length as Trump. Japan must revise the constitution and abolish the Three Non-Nuclear Principles while these two men are leaders. We should also conclude a nuclear sharing agreement with the U.S. to gain deterrence and establish a balance of power for peace in East Asia. There is not much time left.
Obama planted the seeds for today’s Sino-American conflict, but there are also issues with the series of Japanese prime ministers who did not see China as a threat. The U.S. provided vast amounts of military assistance to the Soviet Union during World War II, turning it into a military monster that was trying to take over all of the Eurasian continent after toppling Nazi Germany. The U.S. dropped the bombs on Japan to successfully restrain the Soviet Union and transform World War III from a “hot” to a cold war.
China is now a military monster. The U.S. must take a hard line to prevent China from controlling the world, even to the level of using nuclear weapons in the event of an emergency. If not, the U.S. and China may end up dividing and ruling the Pacific Ocean, and Japan might be swallowed up by China. Too many Diet members are unaware of this threat, and right now is the time when many citizens must raise our voices and sound the alarm.
June 14 (Friday), 10:00 a.m.