The United States has been behaving in a strangely unexpected way of late, moving we surmise unintentionally to bring discord to areas that are in harmony.
The United States encourages Japan, dedicated to non-violence and a strictly defensive military, to take a more affirmative stance toward North Korea, and in response to “assertiveness” from China. The U.S. further is encouraging Japan to join with the United States in military exercises. This American position has, we concede, resulted in some intimidation toward North Korea, who now is seeking to recommence talks with her neighbors.
China, enjoying a period of positive growth and moving toward an even more productive economy, recently was revealed to have a new stealth fighter aircraft, the J-20. At the time of the visit of American Secretary of Defense Gates to Beijing last week, the Chinese government had not yet released word of the new aircraft. Photos of the J-20 on Chinese airstrips had come from various sources, and achieved global attention. The Chinese state-run media calls timing of the events coincidental; the Chinese government, in the words of an unnamed Defense Ministry official stated that the test of the J-20 was “not targeted at any country or any specific objectives.” We are advised that when Gates raised the issue of the J-20 test, which occurred just hours before the diplomats sat to engage, the Chinese administration members in the room had not been informed of the testing. Gates acknowledged that even the civilian leadership seemed surprised at the revelation, and assured him it was unrelated to his visit.
Gates, on his return to the US, took a mixed view. At one point he acknowledged that he took President Hu at his word. But later at a news conference, Gates expressed concern about China’s military and civilian leadership, suggesting that Chinese military leaders were trying to undermine his visit. Experts agree that China’s development of military aircraft is run by local factories, and civilian engineers. Abraham Denmark, an expert on China’s military, said “China must be aware of the political signal being sent by these tests.” He agreed however, that President Hu might have been unaware of the timing involved, linking the tests to the visit.
Another interpretation of events concerns the involvement of the Peoples Liberation Army, who may have sought to devalue the defense secretary’s visit, and to raise doubts as to Hu’s authority
Secretary of Defense Gates has taken additional steps in suggesting Japan should reinforce its military. On January 14 (China is a day ahead on the calendar), Gates again maintained that Japan should buy a fleet of Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning stealth jet fighters (see photo, this article) to bolster its air force. The F-35 is a stealth plane, with enhanced radar capacity. The cost of the F-35 is currently at about $96 million. While in Beijing, in northern China, Gates told statesmen and interested civilians that Japan was considering the purchase of the next generation aircraft, to present a fifth generation capability.
Japan showed interest in securing an F-22 Raptor fleet, which is more expensive, but the U.S. has placed an export ban on that plane.