What's happening at the
Saturday 19 Aug 2017 | 10:17 | SYDNEY
Saturday 19 Aug 2017 | 10:17 | SYDNEY

Asia in concert: Beethoven's ninth or Holst's 'Mars'?



8 July 2008 16:46

I'm grateful to Raoul Heinrichs for alerting me to Hugh White's IISS address on 'Why war in Asia remains thinkable'. As seems to be so often the case with Hugh, I find myself agreeing on the generalities but disagreeing on some specifics.

For instance, I don't see why, in the North Asian concert of powers that Hugh imagines, Japan necessarily has to spend more on defence. Yes, Japan would be a more 'normal' power in such a future and the defence relationship with the US would not be as tight, but Japan already has formidable military capacity that should be capable of repelling any threat to its territory.

And even if Japan did need to spend more, there's no reason why this has to be troubling to China or others — as I've argued in the Australian context, it is possible to signal benign strategic intent through a non-provocative force structure. As it happens, the Japanese Self-Defense Force (JSDF) is already designed on non-provocative principles, with little capacity to do anything but defend Japan's borders. A slightly larger JSDF along these same lines should not provoke regional military balancing.

In fact, this is a cause all members of Hugh's Concert of Powers could take up. To make war in the region less thinkable, the powers should make it harder to actually launch an aggressive war. First steps could include promoting less assertive declaratory military postures from all parties, encouraging confidence and security building measures, and improving military transparency.

You may also be interested in...