Japan’s F-35 Struggles Help Inspire Domestic Fighter Program

American F-35 fighter jets
American F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jets at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, April 4, 2013 (USAF/Brett Clashman)

Major Akinori Hosomi vanished on a cool evening in April 2019 while flying one of the world’s most modern and deadliest aircraft — the F-35A Joint Strike Fighter.

When the 41 year-old pilot took off from Misawa Air Base in northern Japan on the night of April 19, there was little sign of trouble. An experienced pilot with sixty hours on the F-35A, the multirole jet he was flying was state-of-the-art and the mission profile was to be another routine night-training exercise. Yet his plane fell into the Pacific Ocean without so much as a distress call on the part of the pilot.

Akinori Hosomi’s remains were recovered from the seabed months later leaving behind a mystery about the first fatal crash for the Pentagon’s most expensive weapons system. Read more “Japan’s F-35 Struggles Help Inspire Domestic Fighter Program”

Macron Defends Rules-Based Pacific Order, Five Stars Call for New Elections

Paolo Gentiloni Emmanuel Macron
Italian prime minister Paolo Gentiloni is received by French president Emmanuel Macron in the Elysée Palace in Paris, September 27, 2017 (Elysée)

During a visit to Sydney, French president Emmanuel Macron said he wanted to work with the largest democracies in the region — Australia, India, Japan and the United States — to “balance” Chinese power and protect “rule-based development” in Asia.

“It’s important… not to have any hegemony in the region,” he said.

Australia has eyed accommodation with China since Donald Trump withdrew from the Trans Pacific Partnership in 2017. But Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, speaking alongside Macron, insisted his country is still committed to preserving a rules-based order.

France is a Pacific power. It has around one million citizens in the region. Read more “Macron Defends Rules-Based Pacific Order, Five Stars Call for New Elections”

Don’t Risk War with North Korea: Experts

American F-16 fighter jet
American F-16 fighter jet at Kunsan Air Base, South Korea, May 4, 2016 (USAF/Nick Wilson)

American president Donald Trump’s advisors have floated the possibility of what they call a “bloody nose” attack on North Korea.

The Wall Street Journal reports that officials are “quietly debating whether it’s possible to mount a limited military strike against North Korean sites without igniting an all-out war on the Korean Peninsula.”

Experts doubt it. Read more “Don’t Risk War with North Korea: Experts”

Canceling South Korean Trade Deal Would Be a Mistake

Seoul South Korea
The sun sets over Bukchon Hanok Village in Seoul, South Korea (Unsplash)

Various American media report this weekend that President Donald Trump is thinking of canceling a trade agreement with South Korea.

This may be bluster: an attempt to force the South Koreans to make concessions. It’s the way Trump “negotiates”.

But if he makes good on this threat, it would be another self-inflicted wound for American commerce and a setback for America’s strategy in East Asia. Read more “Canceling South Korean Trade Deal Would Be a Mistake”

North Korea in the Next Five Years

The Korean War, fought from 1950-53, was a result of two earlier wars in the 1940s: the American-Japanese War, which ended with the destruction and occupation of Japan in 1945, and the Chinese Civil War, which ended in a Communist victory (and Nationalist retreat to Taiwan) in 1950.

With the Communists and Americans as the only powers in East Asia following these wars, the Korean Peninsula was split in two, each side taking a piece for itself.

When the United States triumphed over the Soviet Union around 1990, many expected the North Koreans to fix their broken ties with South Korea. That this did not occur was partly the result of inertia, partly the result of Kim Il-sung’s living until 1994 and partly the result of the 1997 East Asian financial crisis, which kept the South Koreans too poor to want to bear the cost of investing in North Korean infrastructure or labor.

It was also partly the result of a miscalculation on behalf of North Korea in 1987, 24 months before the Berlin Wall came down. Seeking to ruin the South’s first-ever Olympics in 1988, the North blew up a commercial airplane. It was by far the deadliest attack on the South since the armistice began in 1953. South Korea’s anger and mistrust of North Korea as a result of this deed persisted during the 90s. Read more “North Korea in the Next Five Years”

Time Looks Ripe for Japan-NATO Cooperation

American Japanese ships
American and Japanese ships conduct a joint naval exercise in the Pacific Ocean, November 19, 2014 (USN/Chris Cavagnaro)

Strategic thinkers have proposed closer cooperation between Japan and NATO for more than a decade. The circumstances are now such that this could become a reality.

Japan has surprised many by weakening its post-World War II pacifist posture, increasing defense spending and investing in fifth-generation warplane technology. These reforms are an invitation to NATO to engage more seriously.

Part of the work is being done for it. Japan’s security pivot brings the island nation in closer alignment with the United States. This, in turn, brings Japan closer to NATO.

Japan’s reinterpretation of its constitutional self-defense clause could be a stepping stone to collective self-defense. It has already taken part in multinational military exercises and contributes to peace and stability missions around the world. Its security doctrine is well in line with NATO’s. Both sides are committed to upholding democracy and the rule of law and advancing the cause of international security.

Areas of cooperation could include counterterrorism, cybersecurity and peacekeeping. Both sides would benefit from an open exchange of experiences, ideas and technologies in these regards.

Japan also holds a wealth of experience when it comes to responding to and managing human crises, like natural disasters. NATO’s civil response capacities, in turn, can serve as an example for Japan’s Self-Defense Forces and the two can be mutually reinforcing. Read more “Time Looks Ripe for Japan-NATO Cooperation”

Duterte’s Play for a Dictatorship

When you yearn for a caesar, you more often than not get it. Such now is the price being paid by the people of the Philippines, who swept to power a man whose harsh authoritarianism was clear as day. As the southern island of Mindanao slips into chaos, Rodrigo Duterte’s not-so-subtle desire for absolute power has become all too obvious.

From Reuters:

“Anyone now holding a gun, confronting government with violence, my orders are spare no one, let us solve the problems of Mindanao once and for all,” said Duterte, who is from the island, after cutting short a visit to Russia and returning to Manila.

“If I think you should die, you will die. If you fight us, you will die. If there’s an open defiance, you will die and if it means many people dying, so be it. That’s how it is.” Read more “Duterte’s Play for a Dictatorship”

Trump Blunders by Withdrawing from Trans Pacific Partnership

Donald Trump made good on his campaign promise to withdraw the United States from the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) on Monday.

It was one of his first acts as president — and a terrible mistake.

Not only is Trump robbing American companies of business opportunities in the Far East; he disappoints American allies in the region and cedes the initiative to China. Read more “Trump Blunders by Withdrawing from Trans Pacific Partnership”