Immediately after taking office as the current Secretary of Defense of the United States, Secretary Mattis set to work on the US’s Defense and National Policy posture in the AOR (Area of Responsibility) of yours truly. With visits to both South Korea and Japan, SecDef made it absolutely crystal clear what his disposition–and the disposition of his boss–was. This was the first significant OCONUS hop for our new War Chief.
While I say that SECDEF made two stops…he actually made three. While in Japan, he had three primary meetings: one with both the Prime Minister Abe and Defense Minister Inada, one with just the PM, and one with just the DM. In each meeting relevant [and separate] topics and courses of action were covered. So, those *three* stops were South Korea, Japan (PM), and Japan (DM).
The overt–omote–coverage will give you all the regular “we all just wanna get along” and “screw North Korea” verbiage. Which is all true. Basically. But remember, kids, God is in the details…
SECDEF’s meeting in South Korea netted some just above luke-warm rhetoric about how we’re crazy great friends, and North Korea is our sworn enemy, and China stuff, and here’s a thumbs up, and you guys just keep doing what you’re doing. Because let’s face it, USFK (United States Forces Korea) exists so that mil personnel can go do combatty stuff without actually deploying to a war, and so that Flag and General officers can get some kind of combat-related command OCONUS…and the nation of South Korea has been surrounding itself in so much freaky shit and drama over the last decade or so that it really is hard for any nat-level decision maker to give those guys an arc to cover in the region other than, “you guys just keep doing what you’re doing.”
Unit-level stuff in South Korea is really fantastic, and the experience gained there is certainly faaar from worthless. But having the level of bullshit and bureaucracy we have entrenched there just so we can either a) keep North Korea from doing some shit that they aren’t ever going to do, or b) lose every possible asset we have on the peninsula in a matter of minutes if North Korea ever *does* do that aforementioned shit, is pretty fucking worthless. (Considering the total war fuckfest brewing right across the Yellow Sea that we’ve been doing [comparatively] absolutely nothing to slow or stop.)
It’s like the Koreas are just the pawns in a proxy war. But there aren’t really any proxies, and there’s not really any war. So, as a result, Corps level officers get a war-footing command without the war, and troops get to deploy on an unaccompanied tour to a combat zone…without ever actually having to fuck with the combat part.
So, while the SECDEF was reading the script to the ROK (Republic of Korea; South Korea) President–the person who replaced the President who was being advised by a cult leader–he was prepping to hop eastward and get down to the brass tacks with Japan. (I’d like to note here that I’m not downing anything strategically viable about the ROK, or the level of bullshit they have to attend to with DPRK, up north…I just think the whole set-up there is outdated and in dire need of a complete overhaul. But, luckily, our current administration sees the value and applicability of both countries–ROK and Japan–seemingly correctly at this point.)
In Japan, SECDEF had the overarching theater-level shake-and-bake with both Ministers, and then with the PM solo. There’s a bag full of great quotes from his trip J-side. But the primary thing you need to track here–without even needing to have any access to anything in the undercurrent–is the basic rhetoric. All the officials–Mattis, Abe, and Inaba–continued to use words like “cornerstone” and “shoulder-to-shoulder” in their exchange(s).
In his one-on-one meeting with Abe, larger multi-faceted issues were covered; national trajectories stabilizing the overall regional balance. Japan’s return volley in this transaction comes next month, when Abe visits the POTUS to cover more detailed courses of action on those trajectories and rehash the things that will have happened by that time. But the current Japanese administration and the US’s current admin seem to see eye-to-eye on a multitude of things. (Not the least of which is Japan’s ownership of disputed islands, and the increased activity of Japan’s military.)
In the one-on-one with Inaba, SecDef spelled out specific gives and takes that both nations will attend to “not just now, but for years to come”… and there was talk of how Japan and the ROK are both US partners in the region, and how the relationship between the countries *should* remain civil. (No one really expects that, though. Nor should they.)
Follow that rhetoric from last week to actual *action* this week.
First off, February 3rd marked the first time in human history that “that [humans] actually were able to have our (kinetic warhead) look at a threat in space, identify that threat, discriminate that threat, and consummate an engagement on that threat.” Those particular humans were United States Missileers, US Navy personnel, and Japanese military personnel. That entire process–from R&D to cooperation to planning to execution have linked an insanely complicated set of chains to guarantee that ship-borne and land-based missile defense systems *shared by these two nations* are both valid and hiiighly relevant to the defense, security, and stability posture(s) for the entire North Pacific.
And it was prosecuted by only two nations in that region…
Japan, being an island, is best reached [destructively] by missiles. Every time the DPR[ic]K decides it wants to roll out a show of force, it–without fail–launches an empty missile tube over Japan and into the drink. Then tells us all how doomed we are. Well, that’s not exactly much of a show as of 03FEB. Now it’s as outdated as my collection of Beta-Max tapes–however awesome it might’ve been at the time.
Not to fully exclude the ROK from all this developing and stabilizing and stuff, but they’ve currently painted themselves into a corner they ain’t soon gonna paint themselves out of. Over the years, Japan-ROK relations have been strained over differing interpretations of history…specifically “comfort women”. (Look it up. I’ll go into it some other time.)
Well, recently, the ROK and Japan came to an agreement: Japan would pay a hefty reparation to the ROK if everyone just kinda got over this whole comfort women thing. ROK gave Japan a price-tag. Japan confirmed what they were paying for (ROK taking down memorials, toning down public demonstrations, and ceasing any political banter on the matter thenceforth). ROK agreed. Got paid…
Aaaand used the money to fund more demonstrations and build more memorials, amping up more public outcry, effectively doing the exact opposite of what they had agreed to. Well, Japan pulled back their ambassador, all their personnel, and told the ROK they could keep their money–and any relationship they thought they could have with Japan.
This was all right before SECDEF showed up. Bet your ass he was briefed, and advised that there was no way the US could balance the two allies in the same echelon. So, ROK has been relegated to Local/Sub-regional, and Japan is now our Bestie–bumped all the way up to Global. (See, they weren’t all that wrong in Contact!)
The bottom line is that NEA (Northeast Asia) is as important an AOR as you’re gonna get…*IF* you are looking at things broad-spectrum and more than 25m out. If *all* you’re worried about is slotting hajis, then please keep moving; you haven’t made it to your checkpoint. This AOR is about as Total War as it’s gonna get in our lifetime. And Japan is of absolute primary importance to any key objectives we, as a nation, are trying to achieve.
The fact that this administration is moving so quickly, and with such tenacity, is pretty refreshing. It’s only really just beginning. Still plenty to be done. But I was starting to feel like that old knight in The Last Crusade: I knew you’d come.
Featured image courtesy of the Chicago Tribune