27 May, 2022


Sauce For Japanese Goose, Not For Sri Lankan Gander

By Rajeewa Jayaweera

Rajeewa Jayaweera

Even though most economically and militarily powerful nations trample on weaker countries, Japan, until now has stood tall, following a different path. Despite the fact it had become an economic powerhouse by the late 1960s, Japan never resorted to bullying tactics and managed its relations with less powerful countries based on mutual respect. It has also been generous in providing aid to third world nations with few if any strings attached.

Japanese NHK TV covering Minister Itsunori Onodera’s visit to Sri Lanka, the first by a Japanese Defense Minister has stated: “Top defense officials of Japan and Sri Lanka have confirmed that a Sri Lankan port leased to China should be open to all countries to ensure freedom of navigation.” It further stated, “Minister Onodera said the Hambantota port in southern Sri Lanka is located on a crucial shipping route. State Minister for Defense Ruwan Wijewardene said his country will not permit China to use the port for military purposes.” 

Some of the local media too carried news items titled “Japan wants H’tota to be free of military activities” and have reported concerns expressed by Onodera on behalf of the Japanese government over the leasing of the Hambantota Port to a state-owned Chinese company on a 99-year lease. It is understood President Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe have both assured Minister Onodera, “Despite the lease, there was an agreement that the port remains free of military activities.” 

The lease agreement with China Merchant Port Holdings became operative on December 2017. The Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF) destroyer Akebono visited the port in April 2018. As Onedera would have observed during his visit to the port, elements of the Sri Lanka Navy are responsible for port security.  

It need be pointed out to Japan and all others, GoSL first agreed to sell 70% of the port and subsequently changed it to a 99-year lease due to local objections not for any love for China but due to its inability to repay the loans obtained to develop the port. The current government had little choice, especially as nations who now complain stood by silently. 

Japan, together with USA, India and several other nations are currently distressed over the lease agreement, their concerns being, the port could be used for military activities, and further, a Chinese military presence (if it comes to that) would create instability in the region. 

Japan’s concerns for regional security need be evaluated against its own practices since its defeat in WWII.  Economically and militarily decimated, it rose to the ranking of world’s second-largest economy by 1970, a position it had to relinquish to China in 2010.

United States Forces Japan (USFJ) command consist of 15 Army, 31 Navy, 20 Air Force and 17 Marine Corps bases, camps, installations, depots and training facilities. It is headquartered at the Yokota Air Base about 30 km from Tokyo. Around 54,000 US servicemen besides thousands of support staff and family members are currently in Japan. A full list of US military facilities can be accessed through https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Forces_Japan .  Details of key installations can be accessed through https://militarybases.com/overseas/japan/ USFJ told The Japan Times that the approximate cost of the U.S. presence in Japan is USD 5.5 billion, based on the 2017 Operation and Maintenance Overview by the Office of the U.S. Undersecretary of Defense. It said Japan will pay Japanese ¥192 billion (approx. USD 1.76 billion) in the current fiscal year in direct support of USFJ. 

Given below are a list of key US naval bases in Japan  

Location Installation Type Established In Remarks
Okinawa Fleet Activities Okinawa 1950 HDQ to US 7th Fleet, 76th Task Force
Sasebo Fleet Activities Sasebo 1946 home of COMPHIBRON 11, COMCRON 7
Yokosuka Fleet Activities Yokosuka 1945 home of nuclear aircraft carrier USS George Washington and 13 other USN vessels 
Kanagawa Naval Air Facility Atsugi Naval Base 1945 largest USN air base in Pacific, home of Carrier Wing Five incl. aircraft carrier USS Ronald Regan  
Misawa Naval Air Facility Misawa 1972 home to USAF 35th Fighter Wing

Since the end of WWII, the presence of US armed forces, installations and its massive arsenal of sophisticated craft and weapons on Japanese soil (and South Korean) have led to the destabilization of the entire Far East region. Both China and North Korea have been compelled to live with this formidable arsenal in its backyard. It propelled North Korea to commence developing its own ballistic missile program in 1976 which culminated in the successful launch of an ICBM with a potential range of 13,000 km, capable of reaching parts of USA. Meanwhile, China has enhanced its defense capabilities as befitting its rank among global powers. To its credit, it has gone to war only twice since its inception in 1950, i.e., in Korea in 1950 to thwart US aggression and against Vietnam in 1979 due to Vietnam’s invasion of Cambodia. On the other hand, the US has gone to war 13 times spending USD 14.3 trillion without having to face the threat of invasion since Pearl Harbor.   

US facilities in Japan are not meant only for defense purposes. Many operations have been conducted by Japan-based US armed forces in Korea in the 1950s, during the Vietnam war and more recently in carrying out support missions in Middle East operations. Japan has to date, failed to demand, facilities on its land meant for its defense not to be used by the US for military operations elsewhere.               

China’s construction of artificial islands in the South China Sea is only to be expected due to the five US naval bases and 77 other installations hosted by Japan on its soil beside others in South Korea and other Far Eastern countries.

In 2008, US replaced its aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk by the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS George Washington. The then Japanese government spokesperson Hiroyuki Hosoda, said, “We believe that the change (of the carriers) will lead to maintaining the solid presence of the U.S. Navy and contribute to keeping Japan’s security and international peace into the future.” 

Not to be forgotten, the Chinese powerhouse is the making of countries such as USA, Japan, and EU member states among others. Since the visit to China by US President Richard Nixon in 1972, these countries outsourced hundreds of thousands of their manufacturing jobs for its companies to benefit from low labor costs, lack of industrial unrest and other incentives offered by China. The Chinese used these opportunities wisely to attain its current global standing both economically and militarily. It also managed to bring 700 million of its population out of poverty within 30 years, a hitherto unmatched achievement. 

Despite Japan’s fears of Chinese expansionism, its bilateral trade with China in 2017 amounted to USD 33.2 billion with a USD 3.5 billion favorable balance to China. 

Sri Lanka leased its port in Hambantota for lack of any other choice. The proposed Special Economic Zone (SEZ) in 12,500 acres in Hambantota is to be developed with a Chinese company to make the port a viable entity. It is scheduled to have other investors besides China.

Japan should worry less about the Chinese imprint in Hambantota and pay more attention to Chinese and North Korean concerns about the presence of US military facilities on its soil. The way Japan can contribute to regional security is to take its rightful place in the world order and assume responsibility for its own defense requirements. 

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Latest comments

  • 3

    Mr.Jayaweera: Japan is not a peacceful country. After the 2nd WW, they became a poodle for the USA.Before that, Japan has China and Korea under them. Chinse are angry with them abusing chniese women for the entertainment of Japanese soldiers. West has learned the use of wars to develop the country, probably via looting resources of that country etc., from Japan. Remember Japan bombers Sri lanka, they tried to traverse cruel forests of Burma and got strangled there. Japan bombed USA etc., Anyway count how many chiense military ships came and to how many sri lankan ports. Country how many American and european military ships came during the same time and to how many srilankan ports. They are trying to make Sri lanka a Cat PAw as Japan did to USA. JApanese defence minister came to see the Trincomalee harbour and they, suddenly say we are going to help you to develop the port. Ranil via vietnam (another pro-american country) had gone to Japan, probably he will come with another FTA. What is happening among all these is Sri lanka is preparing financially ($ is Rs 163 now?), culturally, Economically Sri lanka to suit american businesses. They need sri lanka land parcels and small industries for their businesses. Amon other things who gave up herbal tea (Pol pala, ranawara) to British Black tea and now they are giving up that to American coffeecoming latin america and Carebbeans. There are so many things like that.

    • 3

      Japan provides Fake Aid to Sri Lanka– like its buddy USA which has brokered the bi-partisan corruption racket between Bondscam Ranil’s UNP and SLFP to protect US citizen Gota who Privatized Lankan Navy operations to Avant Guard global security company to benefit US.

      Japan has been giving huge loans to corrupt politicians like Nimal Siripala silva and Kiriella, to build expensive highways and then flooding Lanka with Toyotas and other Japamese car to boost its own economy, when Sri Lanka really need an island wide light rail system and good PUBLIC TRANSPORT.
      ADB which is owned and operated by Japan has also promote the luxury car and SUVs corruption racket for Lankan politicians. Fake Aid loans is the name of the US-Japan-India and Aussi game in Lanka,

      • 1

        Thanks, great work Dr. Jayaweera, keep it up!
        None of Lanka’s development aid donors from western countries since independence in 1948, ever helped Sri Lanka industrialize and up-scale its fisheries and marine resources and energy sectors, which would have made it a developed country.
        Rather, they sent their trawlers to fish in Lanka’s troubled water and advanced their own national security and business interests.
        Now that China is in Lanka US is militarizing post-war Lanka’s coasts and Navy which is occupying the best lands, civilian land, in Northeast and coasts of Sri Lanka again.
        TNA and Tamils should protest outside US embassy and ask it to stop all the help it is giving the SL military and Navy to occupy Tamil’s lands, while bullshitting about Human Rights in Geneva.
        US is sending its Marines “Pacific Angels” (Ha, Ha, Ha) to do Fake Humanitarin Operations and Disaster prepardness in Indian Ocean Hub (hah), when US is causing the disaster of Militarization of Lanka Indian Ocean and supporting the Lankan military to occupy civilian Lands in post-war northeast, while weaponizing religion – by promoting Buddhist and Muslim clashes to protect its puppets – both, Bondscam Ranil Wickramasinghe and Gota Jarapassa.

  • 10

    Japan is so Americanized it doesn’t feel threatened by the massive presence of US facilities on its soil. It correctly sees China as the real threat to itself and everyone else in the region. Mahinda has landed us right in the middle of this Chinese quagmire. He got the country hugely indebted to China over the highly questionable Hambantota port project. He did this not for his love for Sri Lanka or China, but to pocket massive kickbacks. The present government has somewhat salvaged the situation by entering into a long term lease rather than selling 70% of the port to China. We have nothing to blame Japan over this whole sordid saga which is going to negatively impact many generations of Sri Lankans to come. China and Mahinda are the culprits. China should be monitored closely so that it doesn’t screw us further over Hambantota or other projects. In the meantime Mahinda should be sent to jail for robbing the country and jeopardizing the future of our people.

    • 1

      “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing”
      Please read African Prof. Dambisa Moyo;s new book on China’s infrastructure aid to Africa and how it is much better than IMF debt trap fake aid that caused an economic crisis in Greece, Argentina, etc.
      IMF is causing devaluation of Lankan rupee and Bondscam by Ranil was done with “advise” from Washington including Milleniuum Challenge corporation )MCC) a semi CIA Fake aid outfit .
      Also read “Cold War Monks” Buddhism and Americas’ Secret Strategy by Eugene Ford published by Yale University Press in 2017/

  • 6

    “Sri Lanka leased its port in Hambantota for lack of any other choice.”
    So why not say out loud that our Great Redeemer is ultimately responsible, having
    saved the country from Prabha only to sell it to China? And made a commission on it too.

    • 2

      “So why not say out loud that our Great Redeemer is ultimately responsible”

      All one has to do is just go to Hambanthota and see for oneself!

      It’s not an argument about China, Japan, USA or any other country ………. it’s an argument about our leaders’ and “people’s” abilities to comprehend …… not Economics ……… but simple commonsense

    • 0

      old Codger
      That is a different issue altogether and need be discussed/argued separately.
      This is about Japanese concerns of leasing H’tota port to Chinese company when they have permitted US navy to operate 5 massive naval bases in its own soil.

  • 5

    This country should be sold wholesale to either USA or Japan.
    If not bring in Foreign International Judges to speed up the rotten justice system.

  • 5

    Rajeewa, have a strong case in part with strong premises leading to an inductive conclusion, that is “Japan should worry less about the Chinese imprint in Hambantota and pay more attention to Chinese and North Korean concerns about the presence of US military facilities on its soil”.

    However what is missing in your argumentative premises is the first part of the conclusion, i.e. “Japan should worry less about the Chinese imprint in Hambantota “
    This sub conclusion is not supported by any premises ( as indicated in the article) , thus weakens the impact of the other premises leading to the final conclusion.

    As per the vision of the Colombo Telegraph, wherein is states that “In journalism, truth is a process”, It appears that you’v fallen short of the requirement.

    Whilst I appreciate your article, you should have better constructive arguments ( Solid premises leading to sub conclusions, that lead to the final conclusion) for your artcle to be truly appreciated by the knowledged readership.

    • 1

      My apologies for not being clear enough.
      The main thrust of my opinion piece is:
      Firstly Japan having handed over 5 natural/man made ports to Americans on its soil despite Japan’s economic and military strengths causing decades of regional and global instability, it should correct its own deficiencies rather than joining nations who object to China’s involvement in H’tota port and EPZ, especially as both Prez. and PM have assured, agreement has been reached with the Chinese, port will be used for military purposes.
      Secondly, considering number of occasions China and USA have gone to war in recent years, it is US rather than Chinese hegemony that need be feared and countered. A second super power is essential to keep the current super power in check.

      • 1

        “especially as both Prez. and PM have assured, agreement has been reached with the Chinese, port will be used for military purposes.”
        So it’s true, is it? Why are you slamming Japan?
        That apart, you must remember that under Japan’s pacifist constitution, military forces are limited. Absolutely no nukes.
        “Secondly, considering number of occasions China and USA have gone to war in recent years,”
        The only and last time was in Korea. Not very recent.

        • 0

          old codger
          Japan’s Pacifist Constitution no longer holds any water. It has been amended, albeit at US prodding, in order to deploy its forces in overseas operations i.e. Iraq and Afghanistan. Further, Japan’s Defense Force is more powerful and better equipped than some of the armed forces in ASEAN countries.
          You misunderstand. What is stated is not about China and US going to war with each other but their respective campaigns. As stated, China since 1950 only in Korea and Vietnam whereas the US has participated in 13 campaigns in the last 30 years which should indicate if China or the US is more dangerous to world peace
          Also please read my response to your previous post.

  • 2

    Rajeewa Jayaweera has simplified our predicament to Goose-feed.
    Once this feeding started, ducks (some in swan clothing) started arriving. The geese and ducks promised golden eggs. Our neighbour Myanmar found out that the flocks of geese and ducks are sterile but with voracious appetite and has temporarily halted further arrivals.
    Understandably Rajeewa is concerned about the flocks – particularly the pedigree.
    It may help if we look hard at why and who let the goose and gander in the first place.
    To cut a long story short: Our State Minister for Defense Ruwan Wijewardene has told his Japanese Defense Minister Onodera that we will not permit the Hambantota port to be used for military purposes.
    Rajeewa is probably not worried about the message but only as to whom it was addressed.
    PS: The revelations by the CoI on the management of bookkeeping in SriLankan Airlines are absolutely scandalous. We must not get distracted.

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