Japan Must Oppose China in the Economic, Diplomatic, and Military Fields

Seiji Fuji

China is implementing strategic operations for Okinawan independence

 On October 6, The Sankei Shimbun newspaper ran an article in its General Section that was entitled, “China Encouraging Okinawan Independence: French Research Institute Says China Investing in Real Estate Near Base.” It read:

The French Institute for Strategic Research at the Military School (IRSEM) recently released a report on China’s strategy aimed at expanding its influence across the globe. The report points out that China is aiming to weaken its latent enemies and is encouraging independence movements in Okinawa and the French territory of New Caledonia.
The IRSEM is a research institute affiliated with the French Ministry of Defence. The report, Chinese influence operations, was published in September. Spanning roughly 650 pages, it analyzes examples such as propaganda maneuvers by the Communist Party of China utilizing overseas Chinese citizens, efforts to infiltrate international organizations, and online information manipulation.
The report states that China is involved in Okinawa as a means to obstruct Japan and the U.S. Forces Japan. This environment is easy for China to take advantage of; Okinawan residents still have conflicted feelings about the Japanese government, and there is fierce opposition to the American military base. The report lists examples of Chinese efforts, including inviting members of the pro-independence faction to take part in academic exchange, and Chinese citizens investing in real estate near the American base.
In addition to the pro-independence faction, China supports the movement against revising Article 9 of the constitution and the movement opposing the American military base. The report points out that China is striving behind the scenes to hinder Japan’s efforts to enlarge its defense capability.
At the same time, the report praises Japan for suppressing China’s influence compared to other democratic states in Asia. It says that island nations can more easily resist involvement by external parties. Other points raised include the facts that Japanese people have negative views of China due to increasing tension around the Senkaku Islands, that Japan has a stable government, and that a media oligopoly has been established that makes intervention difficult.

 The Japanese Public Security Intelligence Agency (PSIA) discussed China’s involvement in Okinawa in its Review and Prospects of Internal and External Situations report published in January 2017. The text reads:

China is working in Okinawa (where U.S. Forces Japan facilities are concentrated) to form a public opinion that is advantageous to China. This includes approaching people who are in favor of Ryukyu independence (who call for the total removal of the base from the Ryukyu Islands), as well as raising questions about whether Ryukyu actually reverted to Japanese rule.

 The report includes a column titled, “China is Aiming to Form a Public Opinion in Okinawa by Questioning if Ryukyu Actually Reverted to Japan.’”

On August 12, the Global Times (under the auspices of the People’s Daily) published a paper titled, “Ryukyu Has Not Reverted to Japan: We Must Not Refer to Ryukyu as ‘Okinawa.’” It says, “The United States merely turned over Ryukyu’s administrative rights to Japan. Ryukyu has not yet ‘reverted’ to Japan. We have long used the name ‘Okinawa’ to refer to the Ryukyu Islands, but we should not use this name because it means tacitly accepting that Japan has dominion over Ryukyu.”
In China, universities and think-tanks with an interest in the question of whether Ryukyu really reverted to Japan are serving a central role in carrying out academic exchange and strengthening ties with people in Japan, including members of groups that advocate for Ryukyu independence. It seems that China is attempting to form a public sentiment that is beneficial to China, and is strategically working to divide Japan behind the scenes. We must pay heed to China’s actions regarding Okinawa going forward.

 The IRSEM report substantiates the report published by the PSIA. We must pay careful attention to China’s strategic maneuvers to weaken Japan’s defense abilities, including the opposition movement to the American base.

A Taiwan crisis would be an emergency for Okinawa and Japan

 China is also strengthening its military pressure on Taiwan, and 58 Chinese aircraft (the largest number ever) entered Taiwan’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ) on October 4. Japan should not disregard what is happening in Taiwan. The Yaeyama Nippo is a newspaper published in Ishigaki City, Okinawa Prefecture. On October 7, it published an article titled, “Viewpoint: Okinawan Residents Must Closely Observe the Threat to Taiwan.”

China is stepping up its incursions, including flying fighter aircraft into Taiwan’s ADIZ. People have speculated that the background to this includes Taiwan’s application to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), as well as opposition to the joint Japanese-American exercises near Okinawa. There is no doubt that these are acts of intimidation based on force. We must not turn a blind eye to this situation, considering the threat posed to Okinawa, which is just a stone’s throw away from Taiwan.
The late Lee Teng-hui, former president of Taiwan, gave a speech in Ishigaki City where he said that Japan and Taiwan share a common destiny. It seems certain that this is true of the current Okinawa-Taiwan relationship while China’s military expansion continues.
An ADIZ is an area outside of a country’s territorial airspace that functions like a buffer zone to prevent incursions into that airspace. A foreign aircraft entering an ADIZ is one step short of an airspace violation, and is dealt with by a fighter aircraft scramble.
China sent a 149 fighters and other aircraft into Taiwan’s ADIZ between October 1 and 4. A total of 58 aircraft entered the ADIZ on October 4, the largest number since Taiwan has disclosed this information. Some news reports say that Chinese President Xi Jinping gave direct orders to step up the pressure on Taiwan.
Taiwan is not the only country on the front lines against China. The same can be said of Okinawa.
In 2013, China unilaterally established an ADIZ above the Senkaku Islands, which are an administrative district of Ishigaki City. Since then, Japanese media helicopters and other aircraft have avoided flying above the Senkaku Islands out of prudence. Chinese military aircraft are also increasingly active near the Senkaku Islands, resulting in a ceaseless number of Japan Air Self-Defense Force scrambles.
China Coast Guard vessels are constantly navigating the seas adjacent to the Senkaku Islands on the pretext of “patrolling.” They are repeatedly approaching and pursuing Japanese fishing boats operating in that area.
Okinawa Prefecture has repeatedly asked the government for a peaceful resolution via dialogues and diplomacy, but that seems a little too optimistic. It is true that Japan and Taiwan are requesting discussions, but China’s stance is based on the use of force and there are no indications that it would prefer a peaceful solution.
China was a minor economic power until the 1980s, when it achieved rapid economic growth. Today it is a superpower that can threaten American supremacy, but it has merely grown larger in size, without the self-awareness that a superpower must have manners and fulfill its responsibilities. We can intuit the Chinese leadership’s conceit in its boastful slogan of “The great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.”
The TPP was originally spearheaded by Japan and the U.S. with the intent of building an economic bloc to oppose China. However, the U.S. ended up not joining, and China itself applied to join this September, displaying an audacious diplomatic stance.
Some have said this was aimed at blocking Taiwan’s application. China maintains a consistent stance of using any means to force through its assertions, just like how it is acting in Taiwan and the Senkaku Islands area.
When considering the peace and safety of Okinawa, Japan should bear in mind that it must face a superpower with tough diplomatic capabilities, although it is mentally immature.
The U.S. and Taiwan are sounding a warning about the possibility of a Taiwan crisis – a Chinese invasion of Taiwan – in the near future. A crisis in Taiwan would swiftly lead to emergencies in Okinawa and the Senkaku Islands. The prefectural government and citizens must not be careless as they watch the Chinese armed forces’ actions around Taiwan.

 The Taiwan issue is one that affects Okinawa as well, and poses the possibility that Japan might someday end up as a Chinese autonomous region.

Steady preparations are underway to convert the Izumo into an aircraft carrier

 Since the People’s Republic of China was founded in 1949, China has used North Korea (its land neighbor) as a buffer state while establishing its borders with the countries it touches (excluding India and some others). For instance, China fought with Russia over Damansky Island (a sandbar in the Ussuri River) in 1969. The two countries concluded a border agreement in 2004. Next, China began actively advancing into the ocean with the aim of attaining hegemony. China states that it possesses territorial rights to the South China Sea, where it is building military bases on reclaimed reefs. It also claims rights to the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, and is repeatedly entering Japan’s contiguous zone and violating its territorial waters. Japan is attempting to counteract these actions by China today.
 The October 6 issue of The Sankei Shimbun contained an article entitled, “F-35B Landing/Take-off Trial on the Izumo Destroyer.”

On October 5, the Ministry of Defense announced that it conducted a trial offshore Shikoku using the JS Izumo, a helicopter carrier that is currently being modified into an aircraft carrier. During the trial on October 3, state-of-the-art F-35B stealth fighters were landed on and took off from the Izumo.
The U.S. Marine Corps provided cooperation for this trial in which F-35B aircraft were actually landed on the Izumo. This is the first time an F-35B has departed from or landed on a Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) vessel. At a press conference on October 5, Minister of Defense Nobuo Kishi emphasized, “This will contribute to increased interoperability between Japan and the U.S.”
The JMSDF released videos of the trial showing a U.S. Marine Corps F-35B aircraft (with an Izumo insignia on its tail) successfully making a vertical landing on the Izumo. It also took off after an extremely short taxi, using no catapult.
In September, the UK Royal Navy sent a carrier strike group centered on the HMS Queen Elizabeth (a cutting-edge carrier) to the Indo-Pacific region. There, it carried out joint exercises with the U.S. Navy and JMSDF, including the Izumo. Germany, France, and other European Union (EU) countries are also planning to step up their involvement in the Indo-Pacific area.

 I believe Japan’s efforts to enhance its maritime mobile power (by strengthening its submarine force and converting the Izumo into an aircraft carrier), and its ability to conduct cooperative operations with American and other foreign carriers, are powerful ways to keep China in check.

China must be isolated to restrain its expansion

 China is still engaged in a conflict with India over land borders. The Newsweek Japan website posted an article on March 4, 2021, entitled “Did India Just Win?” According to this article, this clash – started by the Chinese military invasion into the Indian side of the disputed area (which began in May 2020) – was ended with the Chinese withdrawal in February 2021. The Chinese army withdrew because India put economic, diplomatic, and military pressure on China, with the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QUAD) including Japan, the U.S., Australia, and India providing major force to this end. The article emphasizes that economic and diplomatic isolation will be necessary to constrain China’s expansion, which directly threatens both India and Japan. Just like India, Japan should enhance its cooperation with the QUAD countries, UK, and EU. Japan should work together with these nations to apply economic and diplomatic pressure while also increasing its own military strength to stand against China. Japan must also be wary of China’s actions, like its maneuvers to encourage independence in Okinawa. If more Japanese people do not quickly gain a clear awareness of this, I fear that Japan may eventually become a vassal state of China.

October 15 (Friday), 6:00 p.m.