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Worried about the rise of its Chinese neighbor, Japan strengthens its military cooperation

With small military and diplomatic touches, Japan is drawing a cautious stance of affirmation vis-à-vis its Chinese neighbor, whose rise in power worries it. Yokosuka hosted the British Carrier Strike Group of the Queen elizabeth. The home port of the VIIe American fleet, south of Tokyo, opened its harbor to the squadron formed, in addition to the aircraft carrier, of a Dutch frigate and an American destroyer. The ships had participated in exercises in the Philippine Sea with a Japanese vessel in August.

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The stopover at Yokosuka and the maneuvers testify to the strengthening of cooperation in the face of Chinese expansionism, as does the decision, announced on 1er September, of an exercise in November, which will see F-35B fighters from the US Army Marine Corps land on the Izumo aircraft carrier, flagship of the Japanese Navy, or the first replenishment at sea ever carried out by Japan from a US Coast Guard ship. “We have further improved our interoperability”, said Toshihiko Yoshifuku, the commander of theOumi, the Japanese supply ship, about this operation carried out at the end of August.

The landing of American bombers on theIzumo, a prospect explicitly ruled out by the Japanese admirals in 2015 when this helicopter carrier was launched, required technical adjustments. Even if it denies it, this new engagement illustrates the evolution of Japan towards a more offensive posture, characterized by the creation of an amphibious intervention brigade (ARDB) and a debate on the capacities of preventive strikes. Since the post-war period, Tokyo had stuck to a status quo, equipping itself with self-defense forces without developing projection forces.

Verbal escalation

“Regarding China, Japan is in a process that began in the 1990s. This process accelerated under Shinzo Abe [premier ministre de 2012 à 2020], which has never ceased to strengthen the alliance with the United States. Japan is increasingly afraid of its Chinese neighbor and, within the Liberal Democratic Party [PLD au pouvoir], the pro-Chinese lobby is very weak ”, analysis Robert Dujarric, specialist in contemporary Asia at Temple University in Tokyo.

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Tensions with China concern the Indo-Pacific region and in particular the freedom of navigation in the East and South China Seas. More specifically, Tokyo and Beijing are fighting over the Senkaku-Diaoyu islets, administered by Japan but claimed by China.

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