China Increases Presence in East China Sea To Change Status Quo

The East China Sea. The pink line represents the both the regular Chinese ADIZ and the ECS ADIZ.


“We can only move forward, not backward. We will never let even 1 millimeter of our territory taken.” -Xi Jinping


China is reportedly deploying multiple warships near the borders of its East China Sea (ECS) air defense identification zone (ADIZ) for at least the next year.[i] The action by the PLA Navy raises concern for nearby Japan. According to the first article excerpt published in one of Japan’s leading newspapers, Yomiuri Shimbun, Japanese sources have observed a Jiangkai II-class [RG1] guided missile frigate and a highly capable air defense missile destroyer in the ECS.[ii] Japan is concerned by China’s operational posture within its unilaterally established ECS ADIZ. As the article explains, instead of allowing freedom of navigation in international airspace recognized in international law, China is operating as if its ECS zone falls under their jurisdiction, often warning foreign aircraft within the ADIZ that it will take “defensive emergency measures” if they do not leave immediately.

Concern surrounding the ECS ADIZ is not new. This zone differs from others as it intentionally overlaps portions of ADIZs maintained by Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea.[iii] The overlapping zones could create potential flashpoints, especially in areas in which disputed territories are involved. For example, both ADIZs maintained by China and Japan overlap the highly disputed, Japanese-administered Senkaku Islands, located adjacent to Taiwan. According to the second article excerpt, published through Tokyo-based nonprofit news agency Kyodo News, China’s Coast Guard drafted a plan to maintain its presence around the Senkakus, (also known as Diaoyu in China) throughout 2024. This decision came after Chinese President Xi Jinping pointed out the need for China to “constantly strengthen” its efforts to safeguard the sovereignty of the islands. The last excerpted article, also published in Yomiuri Shimbun, points out that China is strengthening its anti-access/area denial strategy while also exerting military pressure on Taiwan.[iv] The article describes China having four ships deployed around the clock, working closely with fighters, and increasing military activities. It adds that China will likely aim to block U.S. and Japan Self Defense Forces aircraft from entering the airspace in the event of a conflict over Taiwan. Meanwhile, an expert cited in the article points out that a Chinese invasion of Taiwan could include a concurrent “Senkaku contingency” because China claims the Senkakus are part of Taiwan.


Sources:

“China Deploys Multiple Warships Around Self-Claimed ADIZ,” Yomiuri Shimbun (one of Japan’s five major newspapers), 28 January 2024. https://japannews.yomiuri.co.jp/politics/defense-security/20240128-165250/
China is deploying multiple warships around the clock in waters near the borders of the air defense identification zone that it has unilaterally established, The Yomiuri Shimbun has learned.

China is operating the zone on the premise that it is Chinese airspace. Aircraft that fly within its ADIZ are told to immediately leave.
Contrary to international custom, China unilaterally demands that aircraft flying in the zone follow Chinese authorities’ instructions. It also claims it will take “defensive emergency measures” if an aircraft fails to do so.

China started deploying at least three navy warships around the clock in waters around its claimed ADIZ, according to Japanese government sources. The three include an air defense missile destroyer, which is the Chinese version of an Aegis-equipped destroyer, and a frigate warship. Equipped with high-performance radar, air defense missile destroyers are highly capable of shooting down aircraft. The Chinese military aircraft repeatedly scramble in response to SDF aircraft, according to the sources. The Chinese military is believed to be strengthening its monitoring of SDF and U.S. military aircraft and warships in the East China Sea.

China’s monitoring capabilities were initially believed to be low, and it was thought that its establishment of the ADIZ would have no substantial impact. However, some observers are warning that China will have its warships, which are deployed around the clock, and fighters work together and increase its military activities. “It’s intended to block the SDF and U.S. military aircraft [from entering the airspace] in the event of contingencies in the Taiwan Strait,” said an SDF source.


“China Plans To Keep Ships Near Senkakus 365 Days in 2024,” Kyodo News (Tokyo-based non-profit news agency), 30 December 2024. https://english.kyodonews.net/news/2023/12/eb55266c4a9f-china-plans-to-keep-ships-near-senkakus-365-days-in-2024.html?phrase=Senkaku&words=Senkakus,Senkaku

 China plans to keep its ships near the Japan-controlled Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea for 365 days in 2024 as leader Xi Jinping has called for bolstering Beijing’s sovereignty claim over the islets, sources familiar with the matter said Saturday.

During a rare visit by Xi on Nov. 29 to the command office for the East China Sea area of the China Coast Guard in Shanghai, the president pointed out the need for Beijing to “constantly strengthen” its efforts to safeguard the sovereignty of the islands, which China calls
Diaoyu, the sources said.

Xi, who also heads the Central Military Commission, the highest national defense organization, commented on a bilateral row over the Senkaku Islands, saying, “We can only move forward, not backward. We will never let even 1 millimeter of our territory taken,” the sources added.


“4 Chinese Warships Deployed Around Taiwan, Sources Say; Believe Ships Will Collaborate with Other Warships in East China Sea,” Yomiuri Shimbun (one of Japan’s five major newspapers), 30 January 2024. https://japannews.yomiuri.co.jp/politics/defense-security/20240130-165702/

China is believed to be using the ships to exert military pressure on Taiwan. If China and Taiwan enter an armed conflict with each other, an envisaged situation known as a Taiwan contingency, China likely will aim to block U.S. and other forces by using the ships in conjunction with other warships nearby. These warships are continually being deployed near the border of China’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ), which China has unilaterally declared over an area of the East China Sea.

China is strengthening its anti-access/ area denial (A2/AD) strategy, which restricts the military activities of other countries in its vicinity. The strategy aims to prevent U.S. forces from entering the first island chain that connects the Nansei Islands and the Philippines. The Chinese warships deployed near the ADIZ and around Taiwan are said to be almost in line with the island chain.“There’s a good chance that China will use force to make a move on the Senkakus in the future if Japan lets its guard down,” former Self-Defense Fleet Commander in Chief Yoji Koda said. “Japan needs to be fully prepared.”


Notes:

[i] A buffer zone set up by a country outside its sovereign airspace is intended to help prevent incursions. China’s zones can be broken down into the “China ADIZ” and the “ECS ADIZ,” the latter of which is contested. For more information on China’s ECS Air Defense Identification Zone, see: “East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zones: A Primer,” Center for International Maritime Security, 10 November 2022. https://cimsec.org/east-china-sea-air-defense-identification-zones-a-primer/

[ii] While the article does not identify the exact destroyer type, it refers to it as “The Chinese version of an Aegis-equipped destroyer,” which is likely the Type 052D. The Type 052D, is equipped with an advanced active electronically scanned array radar system and a 64-cell missile vertical launch system capable of firing surface-to-air and anti-ship missiles. Liu Xuanzun, “China Launches Two New Type 052D Destroyers: Media,” Global Times, 12 March 2023. globaltimes.cn/page/202303/1287149.shtml  

[iii] Japan established its ADIZ in 1969, while the United States established Taiwan’s after WWII and South Korea’s during the Korean War. Ibid.

[iv] For additional information on China’s position regarding Taiwan, see: Dodge Billingsley, “Chinese Officials Justify Reaction to Western In Taiwan Strait,” OE Watch, 07-2023. https://fmso.tradoc.army.mil/2023/chinese-officials-justify-reaction-to-western-presence-in-taiwan-strait-2/


Image Information:

Image: The East China Sea. The pink line represents the both the regular Chinese ADIZ and the ECS ADIZ.
Source: Maximilian Dörrbecker (Chumwa), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Air_Defense_Identification_Zone_(East_China_Sea)#/media/File:JADIZ_and_CADIZ_and_KADIZ_in_East_China_Sea.jpg
Attribution: CC BY-SA 2.0



China’s Attempt To Increase Regional Influence

First and Second Island Chains


“China is attempting to erode the United States’ status as the world’s leading military power and largest economy by pushing “militarily-motivated” regional economic cooperation around the world”


Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense (MND) wrote in a recent report that China is trying to erode U.S. military dominance and economic power through a “covert military agenda,” according to Taiwan state-run press agency Focus Taiwan. The MND bases its conclusion on several phenomena, including China’s expanding influence beyond the Second Island Chain,[i] which sees Beijing courting military allies through economic inducements. According to the article, China has pushed to establish a military base in the Solomon Islands, with which it plans to form a strategic partnership, particularly based on economics. China established official diplomatic relations with Solomon Islands in 2019, following the Solomon Islands’ cutting of ties with Taiwan. In celebrating the shift, the Chinese Foreign Ministry stated the new ties with China will bring the Solomon Islands “unprecedented development opportunities.”[ii] The article expresses concern that establishing a military base in the Solomon Islands will help China to better project power past the Second Island Chain. China is also using cognitive warfare, gray zone tactics and intimidation, to gain the upper hand over the United States. This includes deploying naval forces and maritime police and militia to interfere with freedom of navigation in the South China Sea. Recent reports, such as the second article excerpt, published in the independent Philippine Daily Tribune, underscore this reality. The article argues that China is combining lawfare[iii] and gray zone tactics to wear down its neighbors in the South China Sea and is waiting for “a suitable administration in the United States, which would give less importance to America’s stabilizing role in the Asia-Pacific region.”


Sources:

Matt Yu and Sean Lin, “China Pushing Military Agenda Behind Economic Exchanges: Defense Ministry,” Focus Taiwan (Taiwan state-run press agency), 11 October 2023. https://focustaiwan.tw/cross-strait/202310110023

China is attempting to erode the United States’ status as the world’s leading military power and largest economy by pushing “militarily-motivated” regional economic cooperation around the world, as evidenced by its plan to set up a military base in the Solomon Islands, which seeks to expand its power projection past the Second Island Chain, according to Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense (MND).

In a report delivered to the legislature on Wednesday, the MND pointed out that China has a “covert military agenda” aimed at diminishing U.S. military dominance and economic power under its Belt and Road Initiative.

For instance, China has in recent years attempted to establish a military base in the Solomon Islands to consolidate the two countries’ strategic partnership, which is a move aimed at expanding Chinese power projection past the Second Island Chain, according to the report.

In addition, China has adopted aggressive maneuvers in an attempt to establish control over issues relating to the South China Sea, including engaging in “gray zone” activities by deploying its naval forces and maritime police and militia to interfere with other countries’ freedom of navigation in the region, the report said.


“Long-Game Scenario,” Daily Tribune (an independent Philippine daily newspaper), 17 October 2023, https://tribune.net.ph/2023/09/21/long-game-scenario/

The tactic (lawfare and grey zone) involves wearing down its opponents in the South China Sea conflict while waiting for a suitable administration in the United States, which would again give less importance to America’s stabilizing role in the Asia-Pacific region.

China’s preparations for a protracted conflict are evident in its latest moves, from making public the 10-dash line claim, the absence of Chinese President Xi Jinping from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Summit in Jakarta, and the water spraying by a Chinese Coast Guard vessel of a Philippine Navy boat on a mission to resupply the grounded Sierra Madre.

Regional analysts said China is employing a combination of lawfare, which is the use of legal systems and institutions to undermine an opponent, and gray zone tactics, which are maneuvers short of war that point to a conflict for the long haul.China’s drafting of a new map was timed to reassert its territorial claims and flex its muscles ahead of the ASEAN and G20 Summits.


Notes:

[i] China’s Island Chain strategy is a maritime strategic concept that the country adopted in the 1980s. For most of its history, China focused on its internal and continental security issues. Then, as China began to open to the rest of the world, it recognized that to be a viable power, it would have to extend out into the maritime domain. The First Island Chain, which consists of the Kuril Islands, the Japanese archipelago, the Ryuku Islands, Taiwan, northern Philippines, and Borneo is the line of defense to which China would project power to protect, deny, and contest other strategic powers. The Second Island Chain reaches out to the Japan Bonin Islands, the Marianas, the western Caroline Islands, and Western New Guinea. The Third Island Chain is the Aleutian Islands, the center of the Pacific Ocean through Oceania, the Hawaiian Islands, American Samoa, New Zealand, and Australia. See Beatrice Heuser and Paul O’Neill, “Episode 5: Admiral Liu Huaqing and China’s Island Chain Strategy,” RUSI, 9 August 2022. https://rusi.org/podcasts/talking-strategy/episode-5-admiral-liu-huaqing-and-chinas-island-chain-strategy

[ii] “2019年9月17日外交部发言人华春莹主持例行记者会  (On September 19, 2019, Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying Hosted a Regular Press Conference),” Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the PRC, 17 September 2019. https://www.fmprc.gov.cn/fyrbt_673021/jzhsl_673025/201909/t20190917_5418035.shtml

[iii] Lawfare, or legal warfare, is the use of legal systems to damage or delegitimize an opponent. China is said to have the most advanced lawfare strategy, which it incorporated as a major military strategy as early as 1999. An example of China’s use of lawfare is when it drafted a new map to reassert its territorial claims and flex its muscles prior to the ASEAN and G20 Summits. Lawfare is one of China’s “Three Warfares” strategy, used to drive the country’s military influence operations. (The other two “warfares” are public opinion warfare and psychological warfare). States. See: Jill Goldenziel, “Law as a Battlefield: The U.S., China, And the Global Escalation of Lawfare,” Cornell Law Review, Vol. 106, 23 September 2021. https://www.cornelllawreview.org/2021/09/23/law-as-a-battlefield-the-u-s-china-and-the-global-escalation-of-lawfare/


Image Information:

Image: First and Second Island Chains
Source: Public domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Geographic_Boundaries_of_the_First_and_Second_Island_Chains.png
Attribution: DoD


China Justifies Naval Pressure Against Japan

JS Kurama sails in the East China Sea during a trilateral exercise, June 2021.

JS Kurama sails in the East China Sea during a trilateral exercise, June 2021.


“When Sino-Japanese relations become extremely tense, there will be another reconnaissance ship that will continue to perform missions in the waters surrounding Japan.”


On 10 May, the Chinese-language website sohu.com published the below excerpted article, which justifies Chinese naval activities in the East Sea as a response to perceived hostile actions by Japan. Moreover, the article indicates that Chinese pressure against Japan is achieving positive results. According to the article, a Chinese naval reconnaissance ship entered the Sea of Japan through the Tsushima Strait between South Korea and Japan, sailed around Japanese territory, and came within only six nautical miles the Japanese coast.[i] While the article refrains from claiming any strategic benefits, it argues the operation succeeded in frightening and thus sending a message to Japan.

The article also claims that Japanese media has interpreted the Chinese naval activities as treating Japan as an enemy. It suggests that as long as Sino-Japanese relations remain tense, Chinese naval reconnaissance ships will continue performing missions in the waters surrounding Japan. Likewise, the article notes that China dispatched several destroyers and other naval ships to conduct live fire drills in the East Sea after pro-Taiwan remarks were made by officials at the G7 foreign ministers meeting in Nagano, Japan. The end of the article alludes to the alliance between China and Russia, where it notes that Japan erred by trying to restore militarism and embracing confrontation with China and Russia.[ii] As a result of this, the article argues that Japan was exhausting its Self-Defense Forces in dealing with both Chinese and Russian military pressure. This implies that China is employing a strategy of weakening the Japanese military through over-extending its forces and wearing it down, a strategy China continues to use against Taiwan.


Source:

“解放军军舰横穿日本,距离海岸仅6海里,海自如临大敌 (The warships of the People’s Liberation Army went across Japan, only 6 nautical miles from the coast, and freely encountered the enemy),” sohu.com (popular pro-government Chinese-language website targeting a youth and gaming readership), 10 May 2023. https://www.sohu.com/a/674302624_121462986

Japan has become an anti-China bridgehead, and the reconnaissance ships of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) approached its territorial waters to frighten the Self-Defense Forces sufficiently. According to the news released by the Ministry of Defense of Japan, the reconnaissance ship sailed around Japan in three weeks…. At the closest time, it was only about 6 nautical miles from the Japanese mainland.

When Sino-Japanese relations are extremely tense, there will be another reconnaissance ship that will continue to perform missions in the waters surrounding Japan.

In response to remarks related to Taiwan made at the G7 foreign ministers’ meeting, China not only rejected such ludicrous remarks diplomatically. At the same time, a destroyer from the navy in the Eastern Theater Command of the PLA was dispatched to conduct live-fire shooting training in a specific area of the East China Sea.In recent years, Japan has had to face regular military pressure from China and Russia, which has exhausted its Self-Defense Forces.


Notes:

[i] The Tsushima Strait was the site of the Russo-Japanese War in 1904-1905 in which Japan was victorious. More than one century later, since 2020, Japan has observed an increase in Russian naval ships that have passed through the Tsushima Strait and Soya Strait to its north nearly twice as often than a decade earlier. This has concerned the Japanese Ministry of Defense. See Japan Ministry of Defense, “Development of Russian Armed Forces in the Vicinity of Japan,” mod.go.jp, September 2021. https://www.mod.go.jp/en/d_act/sec_env/pdf/ru_d-act_e_210906.pdf

[ii] Although Japan has been upgrading its military capabilities over the past several years, this has been amid—and generally in response to—a military build-up by China. Further, Japan has consistently since the 1990s spent only between .09% and 1% of its GDP on the military. China, however, has viewed Japan as engaging in “military expansion planning” and has strongly criticized Japan for this.  For more, see: Sheila A. Smith, “How Japan Is Upgrading Its Military,” CFR, February 24, 2021. https://www.cfr.org/in-brief/how-japan-upgrading-its-military


Image Information:

Image: JS Kurama sails in the East China Sea during a trilateral exercise, June 2021.
Source: Paul Kelly https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:JS_Kurama_sails_in_the_East_China_Sea_during_a_trilateral_exercise,_-21_Jun._2012_a.jpg
Attribution: CC x 2.0

Beijing Expands Counter-Espionage Law To Crack Down on Foreign Access to Chinese Information

Activities carried out, instigated or funded … to steal, pry into, purchase or illegally provide state secrets, intelligence, and other documents, data, materials, or items related to national security.”


In April 2023 Chinese lawmakers passed a wide-ranging update to Beijing’s counter-espionage legislation banning the transfer of “all documents, data, materials, and items related to national security and interests” and broadening the definition of spying.[i] The amendments, as published in the excerpted statement from the Chinese government’s China.gov website, note that they will take effect on 1 July 2023. The amendments appear to target foreign information-gathering efforts, especially by limiting access to key government and economic data and expanding the range of legal definitions of espionage.[ii] Since the introduction of the legislation in 2014, Beijing has detained dozens of Chinese and foreign nationals on suspicion of espionage.[iii] Several high-profile incidents have emerged, including those involving an Australian journalist and former TV anchor; a Japanese executive; and even a U.S. citizen who has been detained in China since 2016 on charges of espionage related to research he published using open-source information that the Chinese government later deemed to be “state secrets.” Collectively, these incidents have brought attention to Beijing’s unclear definition of what constitutes “espionage.” Earlier this year, Chinese government raids on foreign firms conducting due diligence work in China further underscored the often-questionable lengths to which Beijing will go to control access to information that could be used for a variety of efforts that run counter to the Chinese Communist Party’s interests. [iv]


Source:

“中国人民共和国反间谍法 (People’s Republic of China’s Counter-Espionage Law),” China.gov (Official Website of the People’s Republic of China’s Central People’s Government), 27 April 2023. http://www.gov.cn/yaowen/2023-04/27/content_5753385.htm.

Article 4: “Acts of espionage” as used in this Law refers to the following conduct:

(1) Activities that endanger the national security of the People’s Republic of China that are carried out, prompted, or funded by an espionage organization and its agents, or carried out by agencies, organs, individuals, or other collaborators domestically or outside the PRC borders;

(2) Participation in an espionage organization or acceptance of tasks from an espionage organization and its agents, or seeking to align with an espionage organization and its agents;

(3) Activities carried out, instigated or funded by foreign institutions, organizations, and individuals other than espionage organizations and their representatives, or in which domestic institutions, organizations or individuals collude, to steal, pry into, purchase or illegally provide state secrets, intelligence, and other documents, data, materials, or items related to national security, or in which state employees are incited, enticed, coerced, or bought over to turn traitor.

(4) Network attacks, intrusions, obstructions, control, or disruptions targeting state organs, units involved with secrets, or critical information infrastructure, that are carried out, prompted, or funded by a espionage organization and its agents, or carried out by agencies, organs, individuals, or other collaborators domestically or outside the PRC borders;

(5) indicating targets for enemies;

(6) conducting other espionage activities.

This law applies where espionage organizations and their agents engage in espionage activities targeting a third country within the territory of the People’s Republic of China or using citizens, organizations, or other conditions of the PRC, endangering the PRC’s national security.

Article 14: No individual or organization may unlawfully obtain or possess any documents, data, materials or items that are state secrets.


Notes:

[i] For an English-language translation of the Counter-Espionage Law, see: https://www.chinalawtranslate.com/en/counter-espionage-law-2023/

[ii] For a detailed analysis of China’s Counter-Espionage Law and the new amendments, see: https://www.chinalawtranslate.com/en/bad-as-it-ever-was-notes-on-the-espionage-law/

[iii] The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (UNWGAD) has determined many foreign citizens, including U.S. citizens, have been denied due process rights and that they are arbitrarily detained in violation of international law. In March 2023, China’s Foreign Ministry released a report accusing the United States of arbitrary detention of individuals at home and abroad one month prior to releasing its amendments to its counter-espionage legislation. See: “The United States’ Arbitrary Detention at Home and Abroad: Truth and Facts,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China, 29 March 2023,  https://www.fmprc.gov.cn/eng/wjbxw/202303/t20230329_11050809.html

[iv] In addition to due diligence firms, Beijing has blocked access to the China National Knowledge Infrastructure (CNKI), China’s largest academic database, in an effort that analysts assess is aimed at limiting foreign researchers’ access to public discourse and government data. For more on Beijing’s restriction of access to CNKI, see: Lin Yang, “China to Limit Access to Largest Academic Database,” Voice of America, 30 March 2023, https://www.voanews.com/a/china-to-limit-access-to-largest-academic-database-/7029581.html


Philippine Interest in Trilateral Security Pact With United States and Japan Possibly Increasing

Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force butai 01 – 04.

Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force butai 01 – 04.


“Beijing is determined to change the status quo in the South China Sea by continuing to harass neighboring ‘small’ countries.”


In March 2023, the nationalist Japan Times published the excerpted article written by Kuni Miyake, the research director for foreign and national security affairs at the Canon Institute for Global Studies in Tokyo. Miyake argues the Philippines has growing concerns about Chinese policies in the South China Sea, including the building of military outposts on atolls claimed by the Philippines.[i] Therefore, the Philippines is more likely than in previous decades to be open to a trilateral partnership with Japan and the United States.

Miyake acknowledges that Philippines leader Rodrigo Duterte has signed economic agreements with Beijing related to issues ranging from oil and gas exploration to fishing rights. However, provocative actions by the Chinese navy, including targeting a Philippine Coast Guard ship with a laser device in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone, and China’s harassing other smaller Southeast Asian countries, has contributed to momentum building in the Philippines government for closer security partnerships with Japan and the United States. In contrast to Beijing, Miyake argues that Japan must stress to the Philippine government the important geopolitical role of the Philippines in their bilateral relations. Miyake’s article comes after the Philippines began contemplating a visiting forces agreement (VFA) with Japan.[ii] For example, the second excerpted article in the Philippine publication Inquirer from November 2022 quoted the country’s Senate President, Juan Miguel Zubiri, who supports a VFA. Another senator stated a VFA would not only be beneficial to the Philippines because of the training Japan can provide, but also because the VFA would increase mutual preparedness between Japan and the Philippines for natural disasters and other humanitarian emergencies.


Sources:

Kuni Miyake, “The geopolitical trajectory of the Philippines is changing,” japantimes.co.jp (English-language daily with a nationalistic editorial perspective), 8 March 2023. https://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2023/03/08/commentary/world-commentary/philippine-trilateral-cooperation/

Returning to Manila this time, I was struck by a series of developments: a growing anxiety toward China among the populace, dramatic improvement in U.S.-Philippine relations and growing momentum to advance trilateral-security cooperation between Japan, the Philippines and the United States, which until a few years ago would have been only a dream.

In January of this year, Marcos was invited to China as a state guest and signed 14 agreements as the Chinese business community expressed intentions to invest $22.8 billion in the Philippines. Nevertheless, Beijing is determined to change the status quo in the South China Sea by continuing to harass neighboring “small” countries. In February this year, for example, a Chinese Coast Guard vessel blocked the path of a Philippine Coast Guard ship within the island nation’s exclusive economic zone while another Chinese vessel targeted a Philippine ship with a laser device…. What I found most fascinating in Manila was the idea that security cooperation between Japan, the U.S. and the Philippines is gaining momentum these days.


“Senators push for VFA with Japan,” inquirer.net (popular pro-democracy newspaper in the Philippines), 14 November 2022. https://newsinfo.inquirer.net/1692799/senators-push-for-vfa-with-japan

Senators are keen to endorse a visiting forces agreement (VFA) with erstwhile invader Japan, making it only the third nation with which the country has such an extraordinary agreement, next to the United States and Australia. “I’m sure we can muster enough support in the Senate for a visiting forces agreement with Japan. They’re good partners,” Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri said during the Senate plenary’s marathon budget deliberations on Thursday night.

Forging a VFA with Japan would not only be helpful in joint training but also during natural disasters, said Senate President Pro Tempore Loren Legarda.This is not just military training but it will also include disaster response and disaster risk reduction.”

China’s force buildup in the region and opportunities for trilateral coordination and cooperation will be among the key topics on the agenda.


Notes:

[i] One of the first significant South China Sea confrontations between China and the Philippines occurred with China’s seizure of Scarborough Shoal in 2012. At the time, the Philippines believed an agreement existed whereby both countries would withdraw naval patrols from the shoal as typhoon season approached. However, when Philippine ships left the shoal, China placed a barrier across the entrance to the shoal and stationed coast guard boats there to chase away Philippine fishing boats. See: Mark Raymond and David A. Welch, “What’s Really Going On in the South China Sea?,” Journal of Current Southeast Asian Affairs, Vol. 42(2), 214-239, August 2022. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/18681034221086291

[ii] Since the rise of China in the 1990s, Philippine and Japanese political leaders and high-ranking defense officials have conducted goodwill visits and high-level dialogues, while Japan has consistently provided emergency relief assistance to the Philippines in the wake of earthquakes and typhoons. However, a VFA between the two countries would represent a significant elevation of the two countries’ bilateral ties. See: Renato Cruz De Castro, “Exploring a 21st-Century Japan-Philippine Security Relationship: Linking Two Spokes Together?,” Asian Survey Vol. 49 (4, 691-715), 2009. https://online.ucpress.edu/as/article-abstract/49/4/691/24277/Exploring-a-21st-Century-Japan-Philippine-Security?redirectedFrom=fulltext


Image Information:

Image: Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force butai01 – 04
Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Japan_Maritime_Self-Defense_Force_butai01_-_04.jpg
Attribution: Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force, CC x 4.0

China Using Japanese Higher Education To Build Military Capability  

“There are concerns that China has utilized Japan’s knowledge in the development of the latest technology, which is also known as a ‘game changer’ that could revolutionize the face of war.” 


The following article, originally published by influential Japanese weekly Tokya Shukan Shincho, argues that China is using Japanese cutting-edge technology to build its military capability.  The author, Hirai Koji, a member of the Japan Forum for Strategic Studies Policy Advisory Board, explains that 43 higher-level universities in Japan have accepted students from seven leading Chinese universities, known as the “Seven Sons of National Defense.”  These “Seven Sons” fall under the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology in China and are responsible for the research and development of weapons and equipment used by the People’s Liberation Army.  According to the article, completing their advanced education in Japan, “more than a few” of these students returned to China to develop key weapons.  For example, after attending one of Japan’s higher-level universities and returning to China, many researchers participated in hypersonic-related research at universities and research institutes.  The article goes on to note nine experts in related fields, such as jet engines, fluid dynamics, and heat resistant materials, who also had studied in Japan and returned to develop this new weapon.  The author argues that while Japan’s academia has not been cooperating in any way with Japan’s national security, “it has been eagerly cooperating with China’s military buildup.” 


Source:

Hirai Koji, “中国「大軍拡」は日本の技術の賜物 (China’s Military Expansion Due to Gift of Japanese Technology),” Tokyo Shukan Shincho (considered one of Japan’s most influential weekly magazines),21 July 2022. Posted on Yahoo Japan News at https://news.yahoo.co.jp/articles/a37c3552fced0105932811c60d9e39dea70aa3fd?page=1 

In China, there are universities called the “Seven Sons of National Defense,” which are responsible for the development of weapons and equipment used by the People’s Liberation Army [PLA] which are: 1) Beihang University of Aeronautics and Astronautics, 2) Harbin University of Technology, 3) Beijing University of Technology, 4) Harbin Engineering University, 5) Nanjing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics, 6) Nanjing University of Science and Technology, and 7) Northwestern Polytechnical University.  They fall directly under the jurisdiction of the State Administration for Science, Technology, and Industry for National Defense. 

According to the “Survey on Inter-University Exchange Agreements With Overseas Universities and Overseas Centers of Excellence” revised in October 2021 by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, 43 public and private universities in Japan have established partnerships with the Seven Sons of National Defense.  Starting with the University of Tokyo, Kyoto University, Tokyo Institute of Technology, and others that represent Japanese higher education institutions, they have accepted students from the Seven Sons of National Defense affiliated with the PLA to engage in research on military and civilian technology. 

Of course, more than a few of the foreign students who came to Japan have gone on to work on weapons development and performance improvement research after returning home. 

On 20 February of this year [2022], Yomiuri Shimbun’s morning edition reported under the title “‘Economic Security: Invisible Threat’ (4) Japanese Technology for ‘Hypersonic Missile’” that Japanese technology may have been used in the development of a new weapon, a hypersonic missile developed by China. 

The following is a long quotation from the article.  “Hypersonic missiles fly at speeds of Mach 5 or faster and are considered difficult to intercept with the current missile defense system. There are concerns that China has utilized Japan’s knowledge in the development of the latest technology, which is also known as a ‘game changer’ that could revolutionize the face of war. 

The Public Security Intelligence Agency secretly submitted a report to the relevant cabinet ministers warning them of this situation.  This was in May 2021. 

The report pointed out that ‘after returning to China, many researchers engaged in hypersonic-related research at universities and research institutes and pointed to nine experts in the fields, such as jet engines, fluid dynamics, and heat resistant materials. 

According to an agency member, one of them became an assistant professor at Tohoku University in 1994 after working as a researcher at a research institute under the umbrella of a Chinese military corporation.  He received a Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research (GASR) and had access to a facility affiliated with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) in Miyagi Prefecture.  Around 2000, he returned to China and joined a research institute of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, where he was involved in the establishment of a hypersonic experimental facility in 2017, similar to that of JAXA.” 

If this is true, it means that Japan’s own advanced technology was transferred to China through a national university and used to develop a new weapon that is said to be virtually impossible to intercept.