Compare and Contrast: East/China and West/NATO…

DeM Banter:  Never wanting to be one of those “decline of the West” type bloggers… I just could not help put ponder the “rise of the East” in reading through some of the news this AM.  Interesting times for sure… one can not help ponder what the conversations will be in 2023.
April 23, 2013

China To Build Second, Larger Carrier: Report

By Pete Sweeney, Reuters

SHANGHAI — China will build a second, larger aircraft carrier capable of carrying more fighter jets, the official Xinhua news service reported late Tuesday, quoting a senior officer with the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy.

The report comes after Chinese officials denied foreign media reports in September 2012 that China was building a second carrier in Shanghai.

“China will have more than one aircraft carrier… The next aircraft carrier we need will be larger and carry more fighters,” Xinhua quoted Song Xue, deputy chief of staff of the PLA Navy, as saying at a ceremony with foreign military attaches.

Song said foreign media reports saying the carrier was being built in Shanghai were still inaccurate but did not elaborate, according to the report.

China currently has one aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, which was refitted from a Russian-made model. Considered by military experts to be decades behind U.S. carrier technology, it was originally intended to serve as a floating casino, but was turned to military use in the runup to a once-in-a-decade power transition in late 2012.

China is also building up other forms of military hardware, including a stealth fighter jet believed to be capable of landing on a carrier, drone aircraft and nuclear submarines.

China is alone among the original nuclear weapons states to be expanding its nuclear forces, according to a report by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission.

Song also said the PLA Navy is building a naval aviation force for the Liaoning, and there will be at least two aviation regiments on one carrier, including fighters, reconnaissance aircraft, anti-submarine aircraft, electronic countermeasure (ECM) planes and rotary-wing aircraft, the report said.

Chinese officials have said the Liaoning will be used primarily for training purposes.


Stars and Stripes
April 24, 2013
Pg. 3

NATO Leader: Allies In Europe Must Take On Larger Defense Burden

By John Vandiver, Stars and Stripes

b330a41f-b947-491b-9262-311aabb34a8a.imgSTUTTGART, Germany — European allies must invest more in their own defense to achieve more equitable burden-sharing within NATO, which has become too dependent on the U.S., according to NATO’s top officer.

“[T]he declining European defence budget and the fact that the U.S. accounts for nearly 73 percent of total NATO defence spending is unbalanced and unsustainable over time,” Adm. James Stavridis wrote in a blog posting published on Monday. “American taxpayers will begin to feel that the European Allies and partners are ‘getting a free ride’ as some already say in the U.S.”

Stavridis, who in the coming weeks will step down as NATO’s supreme allied commander and head of U.S European Command, outlined a host of challenges facing the 28-nation alliance in the years ahead in a blog titled: “The Future of European Defence.”

Among the challenges Stavridis said incoming commander U.S. Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove will have to contend with:

*Cyber threats, where there is the “greatest mismatch between the level of potential threat and our preparation for it,” Stavridis wrote.

*The potential proliferation of weapons of mass destruction from states such as Iran and Syria, along with piracy and illicit trafficking, are other zones of concern for Stavridis.

The sharp austerity measures introduced in many European countries to cope with the financial crisis have triggered cuts in military spending, exacerbating longstanding U.S. concerns over defense expenditures by European allies.

Collectively pooling resources as part of a so-called “smart defense” strategy that calls for targeted spending on key areas of common interest is one way to deal with the consequences of a budgetary crunch, Stavridis said. Still, allies should also meet their own goal of spending 2 percent of GDP on defense, a self-imposed benchmark that most NATO members fail to achieve.

In fact, defense budgets have steadily declined across the alliance. While the U.S. spends more than 3 percent of GDP on defense, NATO’s overall average shrank to 1.6 percent in 2012, down from 1.9 percent in 2009, according to Stavridis.

A number of European governments expect to further slash defense budgets after NATO ends its combat mission in Afghanistan and withdraws most troops next year. Critics of higher defense spending have pointed out that the continent faces no external military threat and that funding could be better used to offset the effects of austerity measures.

Although NATO countries still account for more than 50 percent of the world’s GDP and spend nearly $1 trillion on defense, “dwarfing any possible opponent or combination of opponents,” Stavridis said allies need to do more.

“To meet these many challenges, there is much to be done on this side of the Atlantic, and inevitably NATO will continue to be a useful platform for encouraging a re-emergence of European defence,” Stavridis wrote.


Wall Street Journal
April 24, 2013
Pg. 7

Japan Leader Charts Path for Military’s Rise

Abe Seeks to Leverage Legislative Strength to Remake Pacifist, World War II-Era Constitution, a Proposal Riling Tokyo’s Neighbors

By Yuka Hayashi—Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is pivoting from an early focus on economic policies that has won him praise to a more contested agenda: revisiting wartime legacy issues that are riling the country’s neighbors and could pave the way for a more muscular military.

Mr. Abe has in recent days talked more openly about returning to his life’s goal of rewriting Japan’s 66-year-old pacifist constitution.

Meanwhile, three members of his cabinet and a mass delegation from his ruling party paid visits to a war shrine, while Mr. Abe himself made an offering.

On Tuesday, tensions intensified around a collection of islands in the East China Sea claimed by both Japan and China, while Mr. Abe told parliament he wouldn’t hesitate to use force to defend the territory currently controlled by Japan.

“I have given instructions to take resolute measures against attempts to enter our territorial waters and make a landing,” he said. “If they do land, then of course we will forcibly expel them.”

While the shrine visits and the territorial spats have dominated the recent news, it is Mr. Abe’s constitutional push that could create the most dramatic changes in Japan.

“It’s been over 60 years since its enactment, and its contents have become obsolete,” Mr. Abe said in an interview with the Yomiuri Shimbun, a leading daily, last week. “The spirit of writing our own constitution is what will take us to the next era.”

It would be the first change to Japan’s postwar constitution since it was drafted by American occupying forces in 1946.

Despite the potential to raise hackles abroad, Mr. Abe has a good shot at pushing through the changes, political analysts say. Any amendment would require support from two-thirds of the lawmakers in each chamber of Japan’s legislature, followed by a national referendum.

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party, combined with a small coalition partner, already has that strength in the lower house, following December’s landslide victory. Polls suggest Mr. Abe could win a similar margin in July upper-house votes.

Ruling-party officials have suggested constitutional revision could be a central campaign theme. Rising regional military tensions with China and North Korea have made the Japanese public more receptive to a stronger defense.

In a tactic designed to sidestep opposition to constitutional revision, Mr. Abe wants to make the bid more about process than substance. Well aware that efforts to dilute the pacifist language in the constitution would set off a round of criticism from liberal lawmakers, as well as Beijing and Seoul, Mr. Abe recently began suggesting that he wants to lower the bar for constitutional revision first, an act that in itself calls for a constitutional change.

Specifically, Mr. Abe now says he wants to revise Article 96, the section that requires approval of two-thirds of the parliament members to call a referendum. He proposes lowering the required votes to a simple majority in both houses.

“It doesn’t make sense that opposition from a little over one-third of parliament members can put up a complete blockade even if it’s the will of the people to change the constitution,” Mr. Abe said on Sunday in a campaign speech for a regional by-election.

The idea to revise Article 96 emerged rather abruptly in recent weeks and took many political observers by surprise. Previously, Mr. Abe’s constitutional focus had been Article 9—in which Japan renounces war and the possession of a military—but proposed revisions to this article have always sparked controversy.

Changing Article 96 first would likely meet less opposition while clearing the way for a possible future revision of Article 9. Those who support Article 9 believe it has kept Japan a peaceful nation and contributor to regional stability and prosperity.

“Given the Japanese government’s refusal to apologize for Japan’s aggression during World War II, the revision of Japan’s constitution…is a cause for concern for the rest of the world,” the China Daily said in an editorial late last month.

Chosun Ilbo, a leading South Korean daily said in a recent editorial: “Japan is trying to use North Korea’s nuclear test as an excuse to amend its pacifist constitution and to rally the public around re-armament.”

Domestic critics call revision of Article 96 a slippery slope to the wholesale abandonment of the constitution. Some say revising Article 96 would have far greater ramifications for the nation’s future than simply changing Article 9. Signaling what may come, Mr. Abe’s LDP published a draft proposal to a new constitution last December that listed a number of causes embraced by conservative lawmakers. Among them: calling the emperor the “head of the state,” rather than just the “symbol” under the current constitution, and renaming the Self-Defense Forces a military.

“In most nations, the constitution is written in a way that makes it very difficult for those in power to rewrite it,” said Setsu Kobayashi, a constitutional law professor at Keio University. “This revision would completely shift the power balance between the people and those who have power.It’s a real taboo that must be avoided regardless of whether we revise [Article 9] or not.”

In the U.S., a constitutional amendment generally requires a two-thirds majority vote in both chambers of Congress and ratification by three-quarters of state legislatures. Germany and South Korea’s constitutions also require support from two-third legislative votes, with the latter also requiring a referendum. There have been 27 amendments to the U.S. constitution since its enactment in 1787. Germany and South Korea have implemented changes to their post-war constitutions 59 times and nine times, respectively.

Mr. Abe—among the most nationalistic of the current generation of Japanese politicians—has long discussed the need for constitutional revision, arguing that the constitution, because it was forced upon Japan by the occupying U.S. forces, failed to give Japan “conditions for an independent nation.”

He began laying the groundwork during his first truncated term as prime minister, passing in 2007 a law that spelled out the procedures for national referendum, a step needed for a constitutional change but hadn’t been explained in detail until then. Now back in power after five years out of the limelight, he is eager to complete the work.

“Abe is frustrated. He is in a hurry. This is a man who got an unexpected second chance at getting his job done,” said Rikki Kersten, professor of Japanese politics at the Australian National University.

Territorial tensions with China and North Korea’s military threats have given Mr. Abe a new opportunity, providing oxygen to a debate to build a stronger military. Meanwhile, his economic stimulus steps have so far generated intended results, sending Japan’s long-dormant stock market soaring, along with the prime minister’s approval ratings to a 60% to 75% range.

Even so, Japanese voters appear mixed on the need for constitutional change. Among those polled by NHK, the national broadcaster, earlier this month, 28% said they supported a revision of Article 96, while 24% opposed it. Asked in an Asahi Shimbun daily poll to name the Abe policies they supported, 50% chose economic policies and 14% chose diplomacy and security. Only 6% picked constitutional revision.

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