Chinese press ducking coverage of Japanese military budget+
(Japan Economic Newswire Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge)
BEIJING, Jan. 9_(Kyodo) _ The Chinese news media have declined to report the details of Japan's military spending despite an eight-month long information drive by the Japanese Embassy, an embassy official said Monday.
Since May, 10 Chinese newspaper and magazine journalists have received copies of an 18-page, Chinese-language summary of Japan's military spending and attended briefings on the differences between Japan's and China's military spending, embassy spokesman Keiji Ide said.
But he said none had written stories.
"I have serious concerns that the (Chinese public) doesn't know the facts," Ide said. "They just get information from Chinese authorities, and it's not balanced."
Chinese officials say Japan spends more than China on its military and hint that the Self-Defense Forces could threaten their Asian neighbors. The Japanese defense budget for fiscal 2004 was about $41.5 billion, compared with China's $25.6 billion, despite Japan's smaller population and land size.
Officials in Tokyo have said Japan should be concerned about China's military. The Japanese Defense Agency said in August that China has more ground troops than any other nation and uses undisclosed amounts of money from other government departments for military research, development and equipment procurement.
The 10 Chinese journalists learned from the embassy briefings and its report that 45 percent of Japan's military budget goes to salaries and provisions for soldiers, who earn about $1,500 a month, Ide said. Chinese soldiers do not earn a salary, he added, which "amazes" Chinese journalists.
As much as 9 percent of Japan's budget pays for sound-proofing the windows of civilian homes near noisy military bases, the Chinese reporters also learned, and Japan spends more on weapons because, unlike China, it does not sell arms abroad. Exports allow mass production and lower production costs.
The United States, Britain and France outspend Japan on their militaries, the embassy told journalists at the briefings.
Chinese reporters normally need permission from higher authorities to cover this type of topic, said Peking University mass communications instructor Li Kun.
"I assume there must be some kind of rule," Li said. "Politics and the military, especially between China and Japan, that's especially sensitive."
Taiwan leader pushes US arms deal
President Chen this week renewed a request to approve a multibillion-dollar arms purchase.
By Robert Marquand | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
TAIPEI, TAIWAN – In a bid to rally Taiwan's flagging independence forces, President Chen Shui-bian's New Year's resolution seems to be provoking mainland China with a push announced this week to buy US arms, including eight submarines and a dozen sub-hunting aircraft.
For five years, as China has created a high-tech attack force designed to overwhelm Taiwan, the island's politicians have batted around a US-approved package of sophisticated military equipment worth between $10 and $19 billion.
TAIWAN: Navy officers stand by standard missiles on a Kidd-class destroyer purchased from the US.
Yet little has actually been procured. The arms deal, dreamed of by Taiwanese generals, has been a political tar-baby that has never passed the legislature. Taiwan's inability to move on the arms deal has prompted criticism in Washington, even among Taiwan's devout friends, who complain the island appears unwilling to defend itself and is banking instead on US military power.
At the same time, an increasing number of US defense experts, including Pacific commander Adm. William Fallon, are asking whether a package of sophisticated arms is what best serves the tiny island of 23 million. In fact, new Chinese military advances may mean it is more practical and effective for Taiwan, say, to shore up basic defenses - use lots of cement and make better bunkers - rather than only buy fancy weapons.
Instead of spending huge sums on a diesel-electric sub that would take at least a decade to deploy, for example, they point to other measures that could be taken, including hardening airfields, buying antiaircraft missiles, and protecting electronic systems needed in a fight. Instead of procuring expensive and vulnerable warships, Taiwan could buy mines that would deny the Chinese Army an easy landing on island beaches.
Such steps that force China to reconsider how quickly it can seize the island, in an attack, some experts argue.
"[Taiwan] may buy a huge load of stuff that may not be operational until it is too late," says James Mulvenon, of the Center for Intelligence Research and Analysis in Washington, D.C. "Taiwan needs to spend on things that will cause China to recalculate whether they can achieve a first-strike success."
"It may be politically satisfying to purchase big ticket glamour items. But it may not be practical," says Denny Roy of the Asia Pacific Center for Security Studies. "If you buy expensive ships, but don't have quick runway repair, you may regret it. Is it wise to procure a big bucket of golden eggs that you can't defend? Mines may not be sexy, but they may be an efficient use of funds."
In the past year, mainland China has made unprecedented inroads into Taiwan's political culture, with emotional spring visits by Taiwanese opposition leaders Lien Chan and James Soong to Beijing, and new talk of tourism, trade, shared ethnicity, and peace across the strait.
As a result, President Chen's Democratic People's Party, a bastion of pro-Taiwan sentiment, has witnessed a dramatic, sudden reversal of popularity - most recently in humiliating local elections last month.
Hence, a New Year's speech by the president, including calls for a new constitution, appears to be a feisty attempt by Chen, whose pro- independence stance is hated by Beijing, to fight on.
"Recent reports on the military power of the People's Republic of China, published by the United States and Japan, make it clear that China's military development evidently exceeds the reasonable scope of its defense needs," Chen argued in a Jan. 1 speech. "In the face of such imminent and obvious threat, Taiwan must not rest its faith on chance or harbor any illusions.... We shall seriously contemplate how our self-defense capabilities can be strengthened and how to effectively respond to the gradual tipping of military power across the strait in favor of China."
Many analysts see Chen's comment as scoring political points against the promainland Kuomintang Party, rather than a real attempt to create a better defense.
"Chen is a lot less serious about procuring the arms to defend Taiwan than he is about using this process to embarrass the KMT," argues Mr. Mulvenon. "We've made no progress on the submarine issue for three years. it is dead as a doornail. The only place it is discussed is Taiwan politics."
Chen's government has pushed so hard for the arms package that a simpler approach may be hard to contemplate. "We have heard about the new plan, but we think the current package is fine," says Joseph Wu, of the mainland affairs council, speaking of the defensive strategy noted by Admiral Fallon.
Reaction to new US suggestions is even less well received among opposition parties. Some KMT strategists now doubt China will ever attack Taiwan. If it does, they say, there may be little Taiwan can do. US analysts worry that Taiwan could be maneuvered into a position that turns US opinion abruptly against it, making it vulnerable to China and delaying defense reform.
Taiwan's defenses won't improve "as long as the president, much of the military, and the [parliament] regard one another with intense suspicion," says Michael Swaine of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Taiwan's defense modernization is hampered by its dependency on "the vagaries of US support and assistance" and a Taiwanese "public left largely uninformed about the potentially lethal nature of the threat posed by the Chinese military," Mr. Swaine adds.
Another reason the Pentagon now balks at advanced weapons to Taiwan: Worry that they would slip into the hands of China's Army.
Talk of 'China threat' casts pall over meeting
By NOBUYOSHI SAKAJIRI, and KENGO SAKAJIRI
The Asahi Shimbun
A meeting between Chinese and Japanese diplomats in Beijing on Monday made little headway in resolving bilateral issues, with discussion instead focusing on whether Japan should put a muzzle on the nation's news media.
"Why does the Japanese media only focus on the negative aspects of China?" asked Cui Tiankai, director-general of Asian affairs at the Chinese foreign ministry, according to Japanese officials present at the meeting.
"In order to produce good coverage, the government in China provides guidance to the media. The Japanese government should provide similar guidance," Cui said.
Kenichiro Sasae, Japan's representative at the talks, replied bluntly that Japan does not censor the press.
Cui had asked Sasae, director-general of the Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau, what Japan thought about China, especially in light of recent news reports quoting prominent politicians calling China a "threat" to Japan.
Sasae responded by recalling comments by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, who said China's economic development was not a threat to Japan, but an opportunity.
Relations between the two countries have sunk so low that there has been no dialogue between the leaders or foreign ministers of the two nations in recent months. Monday's meeting was meant to address important bilateral issues, such as the development of oil and gas fields in the East China Sea.
Little progress was made on that issue or on a dispute over the 2004 suicide of a Japanese diplomat in Shanghai.
The two sides agreed to hold talks on gas field development either later this month or early in February.
A great deal of time during the four-hour meeting was devoted to discussing the criticism of China in the press and whether Japan regards its neighbor as a threat. Japanese officials said the talk showed how tense relations are.
"The current situation of bilateral relations is one in which we have to first resolve such issues," said one official who attended the meeting. "The Chinese officials were very sensitive to the emergence of voices in Japan calling Beijing a threat."
Last month, opposition Minshuto (Democratic Party of Japan) leader Seiji Maehara pointed to the growing Chinese military and called China a "realistic threat" during a speech in Washington.
Foreign Minister Taro Aso appeared to endorse Maehara's view later that month.
"(China) is becoming quite a threat," Aso said at a news conference. "I believe what Maehara said is accurate."
Chinese officials are apparently nervous about Aso calling Beijing a threat, not only because he is the foreign minister, but also because he is considered one of the candidates likely to replace Koizumi when his term as president of the Liberal Democratic Party ends in September.
Chinese officials have long given up hopes of improving relations with Japan as long as Koizumi is prime minister, given his repeated visits to war-related Yasukuni Shrine despite the criticism from Japan's Asian neighbors, observers say.
However, if China is seen as a threat by Koizumi's successor, the prospects of improved ties under a new Cabinet will only grow dimmer.
The current leading candidate to succeed Koizumi, Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe, has been careful about using the word threat in discussing China.
However, Abe was critical of Beijing's focus on the Yasukuni visits during a television program broadcast Monday night.
"It is wrong to cut off all exchange just because of one issue," Abe said.
China may also be concerned about the gulf between its relations with Japan and with the United States.
Although Washington has expressed concerns about China's military spending and human rights records, that did not prevent President George W. Bush from visiting China last year. Chinese President Hu Jintao is scheduled to visit the United States this year.
Said one Chinese government official: "While we have built up a mature relationship with the United States, it is regrettable that we cannot do the same with our neighbor, Japan."(IHT/Asahi: January 10,2006)
[January 11, 2006]
China aims to rule the waves with its 'string of pearls'
(Lloyds List Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge)First Person - Ben Macfarlane
Sea power is arguably an archaic concept in the present age of nuclear weapons and terrorist attacks. However, the concept is still very much alive in China.
Increasingly, China is devoting resources to her naval and maritime interests: economic development, territorial management, guaranteeing her trade routes and her offshore oil and gas fields. A navy sufficiently powerful to further her objectives is being rapidly developed or purchased from abroad.
The US Defense Department views China's goal as being the construction of a series of military and diplomatic strategic bases described by Hideaki Kaneda, retired Vice Admiral of Japan's Self-Defense Forces, as a 'string of pearls'.
This would consist of a series of ports along the major sea lanes from the South China Sea to the oil fields of the Middle East.
In a sense, this goal mimics the Portuguese and English strategy from the beginning of the 16th century onwards, of building naval bases that included Goa, Malacca and Singapore which were themselves strung along the sea trade routes to East Asia.
China is considering building container and oil facilities at Chittagong in Bangladesh for its naval and merchant fleets, as well as more naval bases and electronic intelligence-gathering facilities on islands owned by Myanmar in the Gulf of Bengal.
In a parallel move, Pakistan's Gwadar deepwater port, which China is helping to construct in southwest Pakistan, is strategically placed to guard the Persian Gulf.
China dominated Asia in terms of sea power until the 17th century. But for the last three centuries, China has not had a global maritime strategy and has not possessed the naval forces capable of supporting such a strategy.
China's current maritime strategy has its roots in the US (perceived as a key strategic rival), namely in the sea power theory developed by Admiral Alfred Thayer Mahan at the end of the 19th century.
In The Influence of Sea Power upon History, published in 1890, Adm Mahan argued that China's maritime power and economic development were closely connected: that the development of China as a maritime power was integral to its economic success.
Adm Mahan identified the conditions that determine sea power: these included a long coastline, a population attuned to maritime expedition and a government keen to promote sea power.
These conditions applied to the US in Adm Mahan's time, and they still apply to China today. China is now the world's third largest trading nation and is rapidly developing its port capacities to manage an ever increasing volume of trade. Its ship tonnage (excluding fleets that sail under flags of convenience) is the fourth largest in the world.
Rapid expansion of ship tonnage is part of China's current five-year plan, and by 2010 its shipbuilding capabilities is likely to rival those of Japan and South Korea.
Bangladesh is allowing use of its Chittagong Port to the Chinese navy, providing it access to the Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean.
The importance of this port lies in the fact that it provides a deep-water anchorage a few miles inland from the sea.
The navigation distance from the outer bar on the Bay of Bengal to the main berths on the bank of the river Karnafuli being 16km.
The location of the port and its natural harbour made it an important centre of trade and business as far back as the 9th century AD, when Arab merchants discovered its potential as a trading centre.
The Chinese chronicler Ma Haun, who visited Chittagong in 1405 with a Chinese mission, refers to 'Chit-le-gan' as a port visited by Chinese trading vessels. The most frequent visitors to the port were the Arabs.
To some extent, China already enjoys access to the Bay of Bengal thanks to the Myanmar government, which also provides it with offshore naval and electronic surveillance facilities at the Coco Islands between the Indian Ocean and the Andaman Sea.
There are reports that China has expressed a willingness to invest in a deepsea port at the mouth of the river leading to the Chittagong Port or its adjacent areas. A high-powered delegation from China is already engaged in talks with the Chittagong Port Authority.
Similarly, Pakistan's port of Gwadar, located at the entrance of the Middle East Gulf and about 460 km from Karachi, has had immense geo-strategic significance.
Continuing instability within the Middle East Gulf in the aftermath of the Iran'Iraq war and the Gulf wars and the emergence of the new Central Asian States has added to its importance.
China's eastern seaboard ports are 3,000 km away from Kashgar, western China's main city, whereas the distance from Kashgar to the Pakistani coastal town of Gwadar, on Balochistan's Makran coast, is only 1,500km.
Given this fact, there is an obvious and huge cost advantage for China to use Gwadar as the gateway port for its western region. This explains China's interest in helping Pakistan develop Gwadar into a fully-fledged commercial port, capable of handling cargo vessels of up to 50,000 tons or more.
There is also a pressing need to guarantee China's oil supplies, with China becoming a net oil importer in 1993. As its need for oil has grown, so has its dependence on supplies from the Middle East.
Some 80% of China's oil imports pass through the Malacca Strait, the closing of which would cause devastation to the Chinese economy. To reduce this dependence, China has been working to build alternative supply routes through Myanmar to the south and Pakistan to the west.
A road, and eventually a pipeline, from Gwadar to western China could give China an alternative energy route that it urgently needs to continue the development of its westernmost provinces. Its promise to provide more than a billion dollars in aid and loan guarantees for building at Gwadar underlies its commitment to this project.
The Gwadar Port Project arose from a Sino-Pakistani agreement signed in March 2002, under which China Harbour Construction Corporation will build the port. Beijing has provided $198m and Islamabad $50m.
The scope of phase one included the construction of three multi-purpose berths, each 200 m long and capable of handling vessels up to 30,000 dwt and was completed at a cost of $250m in November 2004 with Chinese assistance in less than three years.
Phase two began in May 2005. This second phase will include the deepening of the port at a cost of $865m. China has promised to provide a $50m soft loan.
Gwadar is envisaged as developing as a regional hub. It would serve commercial traffic to and from the Middle East, the Middle East Gulf, China's Xinjiang province, Iran, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.
Its location, at the mouth of the Middle East Gulf and at the opposite end from the strategic choke points of the Straits of Hormuz and the Gulf of Oman, adds to its strategic importance.
Additionally, the port would make use of the opportunities that lie in Pakistan's exclusive economic zone, which so far have remained largely unexplored. The area is known to be rich in fisheries and, if the 600 km long coastline was fully exploited, this could give a substantial boost to fish and crab exports and promote food processing industries.
Gwadar, lying close to the oil rich Gulf-states, could also provide a potential source of offshore gas and oil reserves.
Beijing intends to take advantage of Gwadar's most accessible international trade routes to the Tibet Autonomous Region. The plan envisages extending China's east-west railway from the Chinese border city of Kashi to Peshawar in Pakistan's northwest.
Cargo to and from Gwadar could then be delivered to China along the shortest route, from Karachi to Peshawar. The same road and rail network could also be used to supply oil from the Middle East Gulf to the western provinces of China.
Additionally, China could gain rail and road access to Iran through Pakistan's internal road and rail network. By using Gwadar Port, China which is one of the fastest growing economies in the world would ensure the growth of both the port and the neighbouring coastline, as well as enhance Gwadar's overall commercial and strategic value.
Gwadar will give the Chinese an opportunity to establish for the first time a naval presence in the Arabian Sea and Western part of the Indian Ocean. Beijing has all along denied that the Gwadar project has any military dimension. It is, Beijing emphasises, a civilian port.
At the same time, the Chinese, who import significant amounts of oil from the Persian Gulf, maintain that their interest in having a secure and uninterrupted flow of oil is justified.
Joint naval exercises, goodwill visits by its naval ships and increased trade and commercial activity with Pakistan are likely to raise China's profile in the Arabian Sea.
As a matter of policy, China has always assisted Pakistan in strengthening its defensive capability. Beijing's involvement in the Gwadar sea port project is motivated primarily by commercial considerations, but there are also distinct advantages for both countries if their navies share a friendly port of call close to the Gulf region.
If to this equation a reliable network of road and rail links is added, both Pakistan and China are sure to benefit commercially and strategically from the development of the new port in Gwadar.
- The author is principal of B J Macfarlane ' Co, a specialist shipping and insurance law firm in the City of London.
LDP calls for U.S. military info pact
WASHINGTON (Kyodo) Japan and the United States need a military information agreement so Japan can repair top-secret U.S. military equipment, including Aegis ships, Fumio Kyuma, chairman of the Liberal Democratic Party General Council, said Saturday.
Kyuma, a former Defense Agency chief, told reporters that a group of bipartisan Diet members with expertise in security issues is scheduled to visit the U.S. in May and will propose the pact to defense officials there.
He also said he hopes the two countries, including representatives from the private sector, can commence talks about a military information pact by around August.
According to the LDP lawmaker, he has exchanged opinions on the matter with high-ranking U.S. defense officials. He also met with former Defense Secretary William Cohen and Richard Armitage, a former deputy secretary of state.
This type of pact is called a General Security of Military Information Agreement. The U.S. has signed the agreement with some 60 nations, including Britain and France.
The Japan Times: Jan. 9, 2006
CHINA: 'Proof' China built dummy Taiwan base
United Daily News report confirmed by photograph of replica of Taiwanese air base circulated on the Internet
Monday, January 10,2006
Taipei --- A photograph being circulated on the Internet has confirmed an earlier report that the Chinese military has replicated a Taiwanese air base to conduct drills crucial for an invasion of the island, according to a newspaper report here.
The mass-circulation United Daily News said that China has built a dummy air base on Guangdong's Dahuo Island with military amenities that resemble those in Taiwan, including its airports, harbours and storage caverns.
Bombing and firing drills conducted at the base have been highly accurate, the report added, describing the development as "surprising and a cause for concern."
The latest photo being circulated over the Internet was likely to have been taken by a Chinese soldier, who then sent it to his friends, the newspaper quoted sources as saying.
Date Posted: 1/11/2005