The PM gushes enthusiasm for closer military ties with Japan. China sees it differently

Nov 9, 2022
On May 24, 2022, Prime Minister Kishida held a Japan-US-Australia-India summit.

From the start there was little in PM Albanese’s CV to suggest familiarity with foreign policy, Thanks to a recent interview with him in The Australian we discover he knows even less.

The PM gushes enthusiasm for closer military ties with Japan. He does not like China.

Maybe I have lived longer in this world than Mr Albanese. But for me Japan once meant food rationing and blacked-out windows to protect against bombing attacks. Then came evacuation to the mountains behind Brisbane.

With Chinese aid Japan was defeated. But then came the revelations of sickening atrocities, germ warfare and the mass killings of Chinese. For me the sight of our PM going overboard to invite the same Japan and its US friends to use central and north Australia as a base against China – the China that really did suffer from Japanese militarism – is little short of disgusting.

Estimates vary but over 10 million Chinese died at the hands of the Japanese in WW2.

The militarism in Japan lingers. Even in postwar Japan the doctors who ran the germ warfare and vivisection units against wartime China enjoyed positions of respect. Japan’s navy still flaunts the rising sun flag of wartime years (Japan’s swastika) on overseas visits.

Many Asians protest the visits. I suspect our PM doesn’t even know about the flag problem. He likes the visits.

Japan has changed, they say. And that was true of the Japan I knew some fifty years ago when I first came to this country as a refugee from Canberra’s anti-China hysteria in the Vietnam War days. (Remember those days – allegedly well-informed Australian politicians warning China was going to invade us using its Vietnamese puppets? Ignorance of Asia has not improved much since).

By contrast, in the Japan of those days it was not hard to find people and PMs of good sense and morality.

But those people have been gradually picked off. We have now had both a prime minister and a defence minister whose family lineages go back to Japan’s war cabinets and its occupation of Manchuria. They still want to diminish China. Only this time they want the US, and a naive Australia, to help them do it.

They are also beating the drums of war against North Korea. Their excuse? North Korea’s missile testing. Yet it was Japan which deliberately destroyed the signed 2002 agreement with Pyongyang for a moratorium on missile testing in exchange for economic aid and normalisation of relations.

The man who negotiated the agreement has had his house attacked by rightwing thugs. If the agreement had stuck the 25 million people of North Korea would now be free.

Japan’s hawks are now in control and it needs enemies to justify expanded military spending. We recently saw exposed one of the tricks they use to keep control – heavy electoral support from a virulently anti-China Korean outfit claiming to be a church.

Ignoring Chinese, and even Taiwanese, protests Tokyo clings to islands in the South and East China seas stolen from China during the 19th century Opium Wars period of China’s weakness. Would the people in Canberra talking about China’s aggression have any idea of this background?

Current China is no paragon of virtue. It suppresses dissent. It has messed up a fine economy. Its rigid displays of marching and other perfections trigger fears. During the ping-pong diplomacy I personally have felt the sharp end of its inward-looking obsessions.

But that is the problem – it is too inward looking, to the extent of badly neglecting the military it now needs in a hostile world. It has preferred the praise and admiration of outsiders. It has made a virtue out of refusing to interfere in the affairs of other nations. It has negotiated border agreements the generosity of which enraged the former Nationalist government in Taiwan.

It has also allowed the Taiwan problem to fester for too long. It allows Taiwan garrisons on islands megaphone distance from its coast. Two million Taiwanese live and work in China. By the standards set by others such as India it should long ago have moved to subjugate colonial history insults such as Hong Kong.

Mr Albanese has confidence in the Quad. But there is a weak link, India. The Himalayan frontier disputes it first provoked against China in 1962 will not last forever. Its ties with Russia are strong. Few noticed when it refused a Japanese request to allow overfly for military aid to Ukraine.

Predictably Mr Albanese has gone along with the intense Western propaganda campaign over the war in Ukraine. Someone should tell him about the war origins – Ukrainian extremists forcing the abandonment of 2014 international agreements to provide autonomy to some of Ukraine’s large Russian-speaking minority.

And so it goes on. If the US says attack, Canberra says don’t bother to tell me the reasons. Just sell me the weapons.

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