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”

Europe and Japan Finalize Trade Deal

Tokyo Japan
View of Tokyo, Japan from the World Trade Center Building (Unsplash/Louie Martinez)

The European Union and Japan have finalized a trade agreement that would create the world’s largest open economic zone when it comes into effect in 2019.

The deal cuts tariffs, harmonizes product regulations and liberalizes public procurement for a market of 600 million people.

The EU and Japan account for 28 percent of the world’s economic output.

In a joint statement, European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker and Japanese prime minister Shinzō Abe said the deal demonstrates their commitment “to keeping the world economy working on the basis of free, open and fair markets with clear and transparent rules.” Read more “Europe and Japan Finalize Trade Deal”

Allies Hope for the Best from Trump, Must Plan for the Worst

Donald Trump Jens Stoltenberg
Presidents Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey and Donald Trump of the United States listen to Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg of NATO making a speech in Brussels, May 25 (NATO)

American allies are coping with Donald Trump’s disruptive presidency in similar ways, a collection of essays in the latest issue of Foreign Affairs magazine reveals:

  • All feel they need to step up and defend the liberal world order as Trump is determined to put “America first”.
  • They worry that a new era of American isolationism could make the world poorer and less safe.
  • Leaders are doing their best to rein in Trump’s worst impulses and most of their voters understand the need for pragmatism, although they have little faith in this president. Read more “Allies Hope for the Best from Trump, Must Plan for the Worst”

Europe, Japan Send “Strong Signal” with Trade Deal

Tokyo Japan
Tokyo, Japan at night (Unsplash/Louie Martinez)

European and Japanese leaders have announced a landmark trade agreement on the eve of the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, where America’s president, Donald Trump, is expected to press his case for protectionism.

The treaty has yet to be finalized. A summit in Brussels was hastily arranged to “send a strong signal,” as the EU’s trade commissioner, Cecilia Malmström, put it earlier this week.

“We believe we should not build walls or raise protectionism,” she said. Read more “Europe, Japan Send “Strong Signal” with Trade Deal”

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”

Japan’s Abe Once Again Puts Off Difficult Reforms

Japanese prime minister Shinzō Abe once again backed away from reform on Wednesday when he delayed a planned sales tax increase that was meant to shrink a huge deficit.

At this point, it seems we would be deluding ourselves if we still take “Abenomics” seriously as a program of economic reform.

When he returned to power in 2012, Abe promised to tackle sclerotic growth in three ways: short-term monetary and fiscal stimulus, long-term fiscal consolidation and structural economic reform.

He only managed the first and has constantly found excuses to put off the second and third — which are the more important if Japan is to find its way back to growth. Read more “Japan’s Abe Once Again Puts Off Difficult Reforms”

2015 in Geopolitical Review

Barack Obama Angela Merkel François Hollande Matteo Renzi
American president Barack Obama speaks with German chancellor Angela Merkel and other world leaders at the G7 summit in Bavaria, June 11 (Bundesregierung)

Geopolitics is about trends. Individual events add up to patterns; patterns melt into inertia; inertia gains social gravity; inevitably, maps are redrawn, regimes fall and through the litany of news reports we wonder how it all came about.

So while it is beyond cliché to do a yearly review, for geopolitics, it’s also extremely useful. What were the trends in 2015 and where might they go in 2016 and beyond? Let’s get super. Read more “2015 in Geopolitical Review”

Pacific Nations Reach Agreement on Trade Pact

Negotiators from Japan, the United States and ten other Pacific nations reached an agreement for a comprehensive trade pact on Monday that would be the signature achievement of President Barack Obama’s economic “pivot” to Asia.

The deal comes after five years of talks and despite opposition from farm lobbies in Japan to trade unions in America who fear that freer trade across the Pacific Ocean will depress prices and wages.

Australia and New Zealand were also wary of allowing pharmaceutical companies access to their government-run health insurance programs.

But the potential gains of what is called the Trans Pacific Partnership are enormous. The twelve nations that are part of the deal already account for 40 percent of the world’s annual economic output. In addition to Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam, Colombia, the Philippines, South Korea and Taiwan have expressed an interest in joining the pact.

Supporters say the treaty, if enacted, could boost global economic output by $220 billion over the next ten years.

National legislatures still have to approve the agreement. Read more “Pacific Nations Reach Agreement on Trade Pact”

Why Japan Is Readying for War Again

American Japanese ships
American and Japanese ships conduct a joint naval exercise in the Sea of Japan, June 1, 2017 (USN/Z.A. Landers)

Ironically, the final vote was accompanied by a fist fight but it’s official: Japan may go to war again. The third largest economy on Earth entering the geopolitical sphere as a military power is absolutely huge. For Beijing, it’s a disaster. For DC, it’s the geopolitical coup of the decade. And for Japan, it’s increasingly necessary.

But why, and how? Let’s get super. Read more “Why Japan Is Readying for War Again”

Japan’s Economy Shrinks as Abe Puts Off Reforms

Japan’s economy shrank at an annualized pace of 1.6 percent between April and June of this year, calling into question Prime Minister Shinzō Abe’s commitment to controversial but pro-growth reforms.

Exports fell, as did consumer spending, depressed by a sales tax hike.

The Bank of Japan’s weakening of the yen has also made imported foods more expensive, putting further pressure on households. Read more “Japan’s Economy Shrinks as Abe Puts Off Reforms”