China's nuclear sub accomplished its mission, anyhow

Tuesday, November 16 2004 @ 10:23 AM JST

Contributed by: Y.Yamamoto

Let us reconstruct from available news reports how the things unfolded around the recent intrusion of a Chinese nuclear submarine into Japanese waters:

November 8, afternoon - The government was informed by the U.S. that a nuclear sub of unknown nationality had been spotted.

November 8, late at night - Maritime Self-Defense Force P-3C reconnaissance aircraft spotted the sub in the Pacific Ocean, south of Okinawa. The Defense Agency determined it was a little outdated Han-class nuclear sub from the Chinese Navy judging from the characteristic screw sounds. P3-C continued to trail it around the clock.

November 10, approx. 05:00 - The sub entered Japanese waters in the offing of Ishigakijima Island of Okinawa Prefecture.

November 10, approx. 08:00 - After a 3-hour hesitation the Defense Agency reported the intrusion to Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, asking for his order to carry out the first seaborne policing operation since 1999. By that time the sub was about to leave Japanese waters.

November 10, approx. 08:45 - After a 45-minute hesitation and mumbling something like, "The intrusion of an unidentified submarine into Japanese waters cannot be condoned, B-U-T...", the PM took a deep breath and ordered Defense Agency's Director General Yoshinori Ono to carry out the policing action. But actually the MSDF couldn't order the sub to surface and show its flag because it was already in the open sea.

November 10, 11:20 - Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda briefed the media on the intrusion in his drowsy voice.

November 12 - After a two-day hesitation the government lodged a "stern" protest with China, asking Beijing to conduct an investigation into the incident, let Tokyo know the result of the investigation, offer an official apology, and take the necessary steps to prevent a recurrence. In response to the protest, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said Beijing was not ready to apologize because it was still looking into the alleged violation of the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea. Beijing added: "By the way, you still owe us an apology for the shrine visits".

November 16 - The undersecretary of the China's Foreign Ministry admitted that the sub in question was China's and that to his regret, it entered Japanese waters due to a technical failure.

Military experts are giving different explanations of the purposes of the China's naval exercise. According to Nov. 16 issue of the Sankei Shimbun, Larry Wortzel of The Heritage Foundation's Davis Institute for International Policy Studies theorizes that there are two specific reasons for the sub to veer off course "due to a technical reason":
1) Beijing finds it absolutely necessary to study thoroughly the undersea topology of the particular sea area to be well-prepared for an emergency situation that may crop up between China and Japan or Taiwan.
2) China wanted to test Japan's ability to cope with an emergency situation.

As to point 2) above, Japan obviously failed in the test not because of a deficiency in reconnaissance technology and skills but because of the wishy-washiness on the part of its leadership. Despite the token dispatch of the SDF personnel to Iraq he ordered late last year in compliance with the request by his "close friend" George W. Bush, he has never learned from the U.S. President that he's got to pro-act rather than react in the post-9/11 era, and that when the other side forestalled, he's got to react at the light speed because the 4-hour delay could have killed some Japanese if China had intended that.

Some news reports said Koizumi and Ono kept hesitating for 4 hours mainly over the fact that they couldn't be 100% sure that the sub was China's just from the sounds of its screw and the direction it was heading for. As Robert E. Rubin, former U.S. Secretary of the Treasury wrote in his In an Uncertain World, a good leader should always take the "probabilistic approach" when faced with a crisis. But this time, as always, our Monday morning QB named Koizumi didn't feel like acting on probability. Obviously the PM felt that he shouldn't act until he was 100% sure what was going on. Perhaps he was that prudent because he thought he already owed too many apologies to Hu Jintao to ask the Chinese leader so lightly to offer one.

Aside from his slowness, the "stern" protest he finally lodged with Beijing was so poorly worded, despite the ample amount of time given to the Foreign Ministry, that Hu Jintao could easily play it down. Being the leader of the nation, that I would term the Culture of Apology, he thinks any problem can be settled with one side offering an apology to the other. Let bygones be bygones. That's why Hu Jintao, or Kim Jong-Il for that matter, thinks Koizumi is a sucker. His taped message to Hu or Kim is always like this: "Please investigate the incident, let me know the outcome, and apologize if your side turned out to be at fault," as if to ask the perpetrator to investigate a crime he committed himself.

One day we will wake up to realize this nation is surrounded 360 degrees by someone else's status quo and vested rights and we cannot but suck it all up.

Here's one last thing: Even in the wake of the sub incident, not a single person in the government or major media organizations has mentioned the touchy three-letter word, ODA. But on the Web quite a few people have raised their voices to insist Japan's ODA destined for China should be discontinued right away and for good.

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