The Talisman Saber 2023 exercise has finished in Australia. The exercise included 13 countries and was an impressive and complex mix of amphibious, maritime, ground, air and combined arms training. And all geared toward war-fighting.

Even Japan’s Self-Defense Force (JSDF) sent a contingent. Japan’s contingent included the Japanese navy, along with amphibious ships JS Izumo and JS Shimokita.

It also sent the Ground Self-Defense Force’s Marines, the Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade (ARDB) – and the Japanese army’s 1st Helicopter Brigade.

The Japanese even took advantage of Australia’s wide open training ranges to launch Type 12 surface-to-ship (anti-ship) missiles as well as Type 03 surface-to-air (anti-aircraft) missiles. They seldom do this sort of training in Japan.

And the GSDF brought other units from the Western Army, Eastern Army, and Northern Army. They even included the artillery training detachment from GSDF’s Fuji Schools. This gave them practice and also exposure to operations with foreign militaries and in a foreign environment.

Too many pundits and bureaucrats are clinging to old, worn-out positions vis-a-vis the JSDF, the USA-Japan alliance and deterrence. Those old positions are losing support, especially among working-age people.

One supposes Japanese policymakers feel comfortable in being slow to adjust since they have an insurance policy with the Americans in Japan and nearby. That buys them time to make decisions, they think.

Anyone involved in Japan-US military and defense matters over the years would recognize the following statement: They just seek our assurances that we have their back from time to time and then do just enough to keep us engaged.

If the Americans push too hard for real and useful training with the Japanese ー much less a combined Japan-US operational headquarters ー Tokyo will say they are saber-rattling and being provocative.

However, expecting the Americans to die on Japan’s behalf while Japan hasn’t done enough for itself (and for its partners) is also just too sensitive politically. But for the Americans.

Sometimes one hears that since Japan’s three foundational defense documents were rewritten in December 2022, counterstrike capability (long-range missiles) are on order.

Along with it, one hears that defense spending is set to double over five years – it’s mission accomplished. Not quite. Now you need a military that can fight and an industry that can produce what’s needed.

Along with it, how about a society that knows it’s got a direct stake in the matter and acts like it? That requires a sense of urgency – that a government must have and create in society writ large. Some people have that sense of urgency. Some don’t.

Nobukatsu Kanehara, a former national security official and adviser to former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, was quoted in the Wall Street Journal recently on whether Japan would help the United States defend Taiwan.

We are building up our army, navy and air force, as well as space and cyber capabilities. Maybe in five years when our new shape is clearer, we will have to talk about new roles and missions in the region.

Let’s get this straight. Mr Kanehara is talking about waiting five years before deciding what Japan might or might not do. In the meantime, Japan expects the Americans to take care of things and die on Japan’s behalf.

And that assumes you can get up off the mat, and aren’t down for good. So JSDF ought to do what it did in Australia, but do it up in Japan. Things are that urgent.

Asia Times / ABC Flash Point News 2023.

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