Japanese warship heads for Indian Ocean
Reviewed By Hitoshi URABE
"Japanese warship heads for Indian Ocean"
A ship equipped with Aegis missile detection system seems be a very powerful piece of equipment. It is capable of recognizing and keeping track of 200 missiles coming from every direction 300 kilometers away and counter 12 of them simultaneously by interceptor missiles with range of over 100 kilometers. The only other country operating this type of vessel besides U.S. and Japan is Spain, owning just one in the whole fleet.
The ship is said to cost over a billion dollars, and Japan has four of them. But it may not be the cost that is preventing other countries, even the closest allies of U.S., from operating the Aegis equipped escort ship. It could be the strategy of U.S. to let Japan have the ship so as to employ the potential of Japan's skills in providing security in the West Pacific. It could also be the governments of both U.S. and Japan have envisaged that the ship, as it is scarcely armed in terms of offensive weapons, would not infringe upon the laws of Japan and have less possibility of irritating those who constantly oppose anything with a military scent.
The most famous part of Japan's constitution, the Article 9, states as follows.
1) Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes.
2) In order to accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized.
Since its creation, and for a long time, there had been fierce arguments as to whether Japan's "Self Defense Forces" could be construed as " land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential", in which case the existence of the Forces would become unconstitutional. Perhaps a legitimate concern as the Force maintains more than two hundred thousand personnel and some of the most advanced weapons. Currently, however, all the political parties represented in the diet at least acknowledge the existence of the Forces, implying that the Self Defense Forces and the constitution could live together.
For Japan, it was the trauma experienced after the Gulf War of 1991. Japan did not send any troops to the area upon consideration of its constitution, but paid the largest sum of money, said to be close to 1.5 billion dollars, to support the fighting troops lead by U.S. However, when the war was over, then the Chief of Staff Colin Powell omitted, possibly unintentionally, Japan's name in the list of nations who supported the operation. Moreover, international media and the general public denounced Japan as uncooperative without even attempting to recognize the volume of financial support it had provided.
Based on this experience, last year, under the strong anti-terrorism sentiment, Japan passed a law to enable its escort vessels to, among other things, guard Japanese cargo and fueling ships carrying supplies to the troops of other countries. For already a year now, Japan has had assigned an escort vessel in the Indian Ocean. This time, as a replacement, the government decided to send an Aegis equipped vessel.
Accordingly, the issue is not entirely new. If the assignment of the escort ship is to guard the cargo ships, it is natural to pick and send the best ship for the task available. If an Aegis vessel was deemed most fit, than that is what shall be dispatched. This is not to argue that Japan should or should not have engaged in logistic support for U.S. military operations in the first place. The decision was made a year ago. Starting an argument now on whether sending a certain type of vessel would fit the job is missing the point. It is as if quarrelling over which of either a Honda or a BMW should be rented for the family picnic this weekend.
It would not benefit much for either side to argue what sort of vessel would be most suited to tackle a specific political agenda. That part of discussion needs to be performed by professionals with extensive knowledge and experience. The real issue is whether and to what extent Japan should be involved in international activities that requires force, or at least to indicate the existence of it, in this world where hostility still seems to play a relatively large role.