Timidity Is

…as timidity does.  The Japan Times has it, too, as demonstrated in its editorial last Wednesday.  The editorial board is worried about Japan actually achieving an ability to defend proactively itself.  The board’s concern was triggered [sic] by a Liberal Democratic Party proposal that

Japan consider developing the ability to strike enemy missile bases.  …a response to North Korea’s repeated ballistic missile launches….

The board fretted that

an attempt by Japan to build up the capability to attack enemy bases could result in destabilizing the region’s security environment by giving an imagined enemy an excuse to carry out pre-emptive strikes on our country.

A Misunderstanding

…between the roles of State and Defense and how those roles should be carried out.  The misunderstanding is illustrated in (though it’s not the primary subject of) a Friday Wall Street Journal piece by Dion Nissenbaum and Maria Abi-Habib.

President Donald Trump is (very properly) backing away from a Lyndon Johnson- or Barack Obama-esque micromanagement of what the military is permitted to do, including target selection, timing of engagement, and weapons permitted to be used on those targets.  Instead, he’s encouraging DoD to have its commanders on-scene to exercise more initiative, with less mother-may-I delay waiting for permission from the White House (and notice that use of the chain of command from the top down, too).   From that, as illustrated by General John Nicholson’s decision to drop a MOAB on his own initiative on a Daesh network of tunnels and caves in eastern Afghanistan near the Pakistani border, we’re seeing a more aggressive military with more timely activities.

Potemkin Missiles?

The Yonhap News/Zuma Press image, below, appears to be a new ICBM, and apparently a transportable one, shown in a military parade in Pyongyang, northern Korea, last Saturday.

Also paraded were missile launchers with “never-before-seen missile canisters” (imagery not provided in the Wall Street Journal article at the link).

“Never before seen” and “new.”  Are these truly so, or are they only new to the NLMSM and haven’t actually been successfully concealed from the world’s intelligence services?

Or: are these real weapons, or are they just shams, empty containers?  Inquiring minds want to know.

Hot Air and a Strong United States

Recall the Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte was going to heavily reinforce “all ocean features controlled by Manila” and plant the Philippine flag on them.

Now, it turns out that the People’s Republic of China has instructed its newest client state not to do so, and Duterte has obeyed.  He’s withdrawn his “threat”

because he values Chinese friendship.

PRC Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang:

Beijing is “happy to see the Philippine side working more closely with the Chinese side.”

Duterte’s strong words having been exposed as so much hot air clearly demonstrates the need for a revitalized and strong American presence everywhere in the South—and East—China Seas.

Restrain

In a piece about PRC President Xi Jinping telling President Donald Trump that the former wants a peaceful resolution to the problem of northern Korea, The Wall Street Journal‘s Te-Ping Chen quoted John Delury, an Associate Professor of Chinese Studies at Yonsei University in Seoul:

Beijing is in somewhat of a new dilemma here, where they’re trying to restrain both Trump and Kim Jong Un[.]

This is inaccurate on a couple of counts.  On the one hand, Xi is in no position to presume to restrain Trump, what with his own naked aggressions in the East and South China Seas, nor is he in a position to restrain when he has steadfastly refused to take meaningful steps to restrain Baby Kim, and his father Kim the Younger before him.

Chuck Schumer Agrees

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D, NY) has expressed his agreement with and appreciation of the missile strikes against the Syrian air base from which Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad launched his barbaric gas attack against innocent men, women, children, and babies—his own citizens—strikes which were ordered by President Donald Trump.

Making sure Assad knows that when he commits such despicable atrocities he will pay a price is the right thing to do.  I salute the professionalism and skill of our Armed Forces who took action today.

Japanese Active Defense

With the growing threat to the Japanese homeland represented by northern Korea’s nuclear weapons development, Japan is considering another major change to its defense posture: acquisition of a “counter-attack” capability to allow Japan to more actively respond to an attack by northern Korea.

There are a couple of misconceptions, though, in the government’s considerations or in The Diplomat‘s presentation of those considerations.

As long as Japan acquires the capabilities recommended by the study group with close consultation with the United States, so that whatever the new capability Japan acquires will benefit overall deterrence of the US-Japan alliance, it will ultimately work to counter urgent security challenges presented by North Korea.

Northern Korea and the People’s Republic of China

On the day before the PRC’s President, Xi Jinping, is to meet with President Donald Trump, northern Korea fired another ballistic missile (this one apparently another test of its solid-fueled model).  Of course, the careful timing of Baby Kim’s missile launch has been denied by the PRC’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying.  There is no “direct relation” between the missile launch and the Trump-Xi meeting, she insisted.

The more telling description of events and event relations, though, was provided by Shi Yinhong, Director of the Center on American Studies at Renmin University in Beijing:

China has nearly exhausted its leverage with North Korea.

Public Servants and Respect

A Letter to the Wall Street Journal Editor last week revealed a problem in the Federal bureaucracy, but not the one the writer intended.  The writer wrote in part,

While Peter Hoekstra in his March 16 op-ed Can Americans Trust Their Spies? clearly states the problem of intelligence leaks from spies employed by the US, he stops short of mentioning a broader issue of morale and trust that is at the heart of a national problem and has stalled our government. Public servants, like all of us, want to feel they are respected and supported by those in high office and that their efforts are taken seriously by our government. When this doesn’t occur, information leaks develop. Modern cyberspace warfare requires the trust and support of our spies and an understanding of who our enemy is.

NATO and Mutual Defense Alliances

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was in Europe at the end of the week, and among other things, he pushed for NATO member states to honor their decades-old commitment to spend 2% of their GDP on defense.

Germany, among other members, insisted that honoring their commitment was “unrealistic.”

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said demands for 2% of GDP spending were “totally unrealistic.” He said that to meet the US target, Germany would have to increase spending by some €35 billion ($37 billion).

After all, Gabriel has argued,

…a strong defense isn’t enough to ensure security.