Former ASDF general: 'China won't initiate war over Senkakus'

TOKYO —

In what appeared to be a serious escalation of the ongoing dispute over possession of the Senkaku islands, the Japanese government announced that in January Chinese naval frigates had twice “painted” a Japanese ship and helicopter with their fire-control radar. China denied the allegations.

These claims and counter-claims clearly ratcheted up the tension. But despite considerable anxiety in the media, one person doesn’t seem worried in the slightest. Toshio Tamogami, a former general in the Air Self-Defense Force who was forced into retirement in 2008 for publishing politically incorrect views in a magazine article, tells Shukan Asahi Geino (Feb 28) why he’s not overly concerned.

First, he says in a somewhat long-winded technical explanation with lots of megahertz frequencies thrown in for good measure, fire control radar is less advanced than another type—phased array radar—that’s become the standard among the world’s navies.

More important, the chances of a maverick sailor starting a shooting war by accident are slim to none, since to launch offensive missiles, it’s necessary to go though a fail-safe series of procedures involving two or three crew members.

Still, we have to consider why the Chinese vessels allegedly engaged in provocative acts in the first place.

While some media have overreacted by reporting that China is now on a “war footing”—or expressions to that effect—Tamogami says that no one is more aware of this than the Chinese government, which at the present stage harbors no desire to wage war.

First of all, he emphasizes, if China were to be seriously considering escalating the current face-off to armed conflict, it’s going to need from three to six months to mobilize. Moreover, if such a crisis were to be imminent, unmistakable changes would be occurring, such as reassigning squadrons of fighter planes and naval ships. Likewise for buildup of rear-echelon logistics. Presently, China shows no indications of such moves.

“Nor from seeing the faces of Chinese in the news do I get the impression of anything out of the ordinary,” Tamogami remarks. Another indication of moves to a belligerent state would be a surge in electronic “chatter,” indicating military forces preparing to move. Presently no deviation from the ordinary has been observed.

Granted, last October the Chinese navy conducted exercises in the East China Sea—the largest scale in many years. But these were held at the squadron level and did not involve the entire navy. Actually, China has never conducted naval exercises involving its entire fleet.

“But the TV news and wide shows keep issuing scary reports because they’re trying to boost their ratings,” says Tamogami, who adds that even when a member of Japan’s military is brought before the cameras and asked to comment, he’s invariably obliged to parrot the TV network’s stance and therefore unable to air his true feelings.

“Unless a decision is made by China’s central government, war will absolutely not occur. If, in the unlikely event an exchange of fire should happen in the Senkakus between China and Japan, this will not be viewed as ‘war’ so much as a ‘dispute.’”

Tamogami asserts that a low-level skirmish would not escalate into full-scale war.

“What would be the advantage, for China, to go to war against Japan?” he asks. “As I have said previously, the Chinese military in its present state could not win against Japan.” He describes China’s military as a “mishmash of odds and ends.”

So the worst thing China could do to itself, he says, would be to decide to “defend the Senkakus” from Japan, since this would oblige it to go on a war footing.

“Under the current conditions, I hereby declare war will absolutely not occur,”  Tamogami asserts, adding his view that the Japanese government must absolutely not cower from threats.

“If I were able to see real harbingers of war, I would certainly sound the alarm,” he concludes.

  • -5

    ebisen

    Why is the opinion of this guy relevant in any way???

  • 6

    BertieWooster

    "Under the current conditions, I hereby declare war will absolutely not occur," Tamogami asserts.

    Whew!

    That's a relief!

    It's totally put my mind at rest.

  • 13

    Moonraker

    His opinion is relevant, ebisen, because he is a famous ex-air SDF Chief of Staff and a well-known nationalist hawk, who wants more SDF freedom, and a revisionist who defends Japan's wartime past and was dismissed for doing so in an essay. If he feels he can assert in print that Japan has no need to fear - without beating the war drum and asking for more defence spending - then I actually feel quite relieved myself.

  • 5

    SauloJpn

    Everybody is entitled to an opinion! But even is he is THE GUY, when it comes to China ( and North Korea) I don't think we should let our guard down just yet!

  • 5

    Virtuoso

    Interesting. It's too bad we have to depend on a third-rate tabloid magazine for this kind of military analysis, instead of hearing it from official government sources.

  • 7

    Scrote

    Abe wants to ratchet up the tension and scaremongering since it furthers his aim of re-militarising Japan and changing the constitution to allow him to introduce conscription. That's why you won't hear any of this from the government or NHK.

  • 1

    BertieWooster

    Scrote,

    He also wants to buy some rather expensive military hardware from the U.S.A.

    He has to make it look like it's needed, doesn't he?

    Even if it isn't.

  • 0

    avigator

    Well, back in 1987 I knew that the Soviet Union would never achieve the title of number one World power. And I know Japan will not fight with China, Russia or Korea(s). In fact, both Koreas will soon agree on reunification. Cuba will open their system to free elections and will seek closer relations with the US. Venezuela will go back to democracy and mend relations with the US. China will transition into democracy also. And even Muslim countries will have drastic changes. Things are happening in a very subtle way and people are not noticing. The PKK in Turkey stopped their attacks against the government. The Shining Path in Peru put down theirs arms, the MNLF in Philippines made some concessions and agreed to further dialogue, the Tamil Tigers of Eilam in Sri Lanka also put down their arms. There will be a time when there is "World Peace". Do not be deceived.

  • -2

    humanrights

    Who is this guy? The missing link??

  • 1

    Luiz /BRAZIL

    We´re living in 21st century !! Everlasting Peace and friendship between Japan and China is a MUST for the world good sake . Otherwise we´ll be back to ancient times:beasts state .

    MrPeacemakerbrazil Sao Paulo City, BRAZIL

  • 5

    Flyfalcon

    Who is this guy? The missing link??

    Pl refer to

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toshio_Tamogami

    His comment is more realistic, fair and balanced unlike rating driven media.

  • 2

    OssanAmerica

    avigatorFeb. 27, 2013 - 10:33PM JST

    China will transition into democracy also.

    I can almost agree with everything you listed except for the above. I see nothing happening to support it, in fact only the reverse.

  • 0

    sfjp330

    Japanese goverment and Chinese goverment have a tendency to stir up a conflict with the goal of deviating attention away form social problems in their country. The Chinese goverment is not inclined to alienate domestic anti-Japanese protester as they could easily try to provoke social unrest in China. Political factors often outweigh legal arguments in both countries.

  • 1

    kurumazaka

    Humanrights, Moonraker already answered your question.

  • -1

    Elbuda Mexicano

    CHINA is just mucking around to get 1) attention 2)distract it's own people from all of the INTERNAL/DOMESTIC problems going on IN CHINA 3) China is testing the waters, see how Japan, etc..will react etc...etc...etc...IMHO

  • 0

    BigdaddyJ

    I really believe the Chinese won't start a war either. They don't want to "lose face". They know they'll more than have their hands full with Japan...then America will have to jump in at some point.

  • 1

    A Realist

    Retired generals say all kinds of things. China may not be preparing for war in the short term, but why has it been increasing its military spending by double-digit percentages every year for the past 20 years or more and going to such great lengths to "modernize" its military? China may be lacking in lots of areas, but one thing it is not lacking in is patience. It won't go to war--until it thinks it can win.

  • -1

    Pukey2

    Ossan:

    China will transition into democracy also.

    I can almost agree with everything you listed except for the above.

    For posters like you and elbuda, it's not a case of "China won't transition", but "I don't want China to transition".

  • 1

    neobios

    Retired generals say all kinds of things. China may not be preparing for war in the short term, but why has it been increasing its military spending by double-digit percentages every year for the past 20 years or more and going to such great lengths to "modernize" its military? China may be lacking in lots of areas, but one thing it is not lacking in is patience. It won't go to war--until it thinks it can win.

    China deserve to protect its country as much as any other countries around the world and the reason why its military is getting stronger is due to its economy obviously, richer it is the more budget to spend.

    I will be worried if there's too much military spending, hurting the nation's economy where North Korea is an example for us to see. China's philosophy in my opinion is simple, Economy first, military last, thus unless their economy is seriously threaten like no tomorrow, China would not look for a war.

  • 0

    Ishiwara

    The best argument I have heard that war is unlikely, is that should it happen, and China looses (which is likely, especially if the U.S. gets involved), the communist regime will not survive.

    Reading right-wing Chinese newspapers like Global Times gives a sense they are trying to calm things down now, saying that the Senkaku are important, but not important enough to risk war over.

  • 0

    Kazuaki Shimazaki

    First, he says in a somewhat long-winded technical explanation with lots of megahertz frequencies thrown in for good measure, fire control radar is less advanced than another type—phased array radar—that’s become the standard among the world’s navies.

    Either Tomogami is simplifying things for the dumb reporter, the dumb reporter misinterpreted what Tomogami was trying to say, or Tomogami doesn't know as much as he should.

    Phased array radar is just a way of achieving the goal of getting the radar beam into a direction. You can have phased array search radars, phased array fire control radars, phased array multifunction radars (what he's probably trying to get to, and indeed seems to be the trend), and mechanically scanned radars can be search or fire control (harder to make them multifunction unless you accept heavier limitations).

    The other funny thing is that most of Japan's ships also use mechanically scanned fire control radar (the FCS-2), the type he's deriding as less advanced :-)

    But he is probably betting on the right horse about whether war will come.

  • 1

    Jenny Zilga

    War is a last resort, and China so far has mastered the art of winning without engaging in war. Despite many claiming this as unthinkable, Japanese nationalists are not anti-China nor pro-USA, they are pro rebuilding Japan. Like USA which "has no friends only interests", Japanese nationalists will take advantage of any situation to further their aim as they are now quite desperate. This includes importing US military hardware and then conversion to building a local defense industry. Yes, US policy is supportive of Japan being more independent, however, Japan's primary problem from a nationalist POV is the shackles imposed by the US written postwar constitution and by anti-war lobby, Japanese nationalists fully know Japan's dependence on the US is the nation's achilles heel. China therefore holds a trump card, by its feigned belligerence, it has promoted Japanese nationalists back to power. China has the potential to give Japan something it has never had, a truly equal partnership, something US-Japan relationship never achieved. Geographically its advantageous to both Japan and China, Russia is even close, US is the odd man out by geography. Nationalists may at first be coy to such overtures from China, but if US shirks from Asia as its overextended military priorities make its grip weaker...US policy in Asia could suffer an unprecedented setback.

  • -1

    EastAsiaForeigner

    China will get bolder if it has its way little by little. China's current bullying tactics in SEA will ... unfortunately be used on the Japanese and Koreans as their confidence grows. It's wise for East asians to mend their ties. Nothing good will come of this. China is delighted at the fact that Korea and Japan are fighting. China's beligerent attitude towards Japan will not be this bold and persistent if Japan was on friendly terms with some of its other neighbours like Korea. Same goes for Korea. Once they screw over Japan. The Koreans are kidding themselves if they think China won't try to the same thing.

  • 0

    Tony Ew

    See, I told you so! Here is one SANE & INFORMED Japanese military guy who knows what he is talking about. I had being saying all along what China is doing now is just for domestic audience, dancing around the edge, nothing dramatic.

    Japan, just relax, ignore this trivial matter since as I repeat endlessly, you don't have sovereignty to the islands... yet until US 'give' it to you!

  • 0

    Wakarimasen

    Only if we show weakness. Stand firm and the bully will always back down.

  • -1

    Hiroshi Maruyama

    Reminds me of that classic line from Spaceballs:

    What's the matter Colonel Sanders? Chicken?

    I think my generation could use a war as a rallying point to give us some purpose, but we'd need an enemy willing to fight. China doesn't have the tamas for it.

  • 0

    Athletes

    Tony Ew

    See, I told you so! Here is one SANE & INFORMED Japanese military guy who knows what he is talking about.

    I salute to your past excellent and superb posts! Some posters blamed you as Chinese puppet. Actually media is inflaming and exaggerating for nationalist audience. Peace do not sell news paper and TV or Radio news.

    While some media have overreacted by reporting that China is now on a “war footing”—or expressions to that effect -

    But the TV news and wide shows keep issuing scary reports because they’re trying to boost their ratings,” says Tamogami, who adds that even when a member of Japan’s military is brought before the cameras and asked to comment, he’s invariably obliged to parrot the TV network’s stance and therefore unable to air his true feelings.

    Even nationalist retired Japanese general of ASDF do not trust main stream media. Some posters are so naive about believing every wild west and high noon stories of ever milking media.

  • 0

    Steve Fabricant

    The march towards democracy in China is inexorable. Ordinary people seem to want more of it and all but the oldest Red Guard types must see it as China's future. But the leaders are wisely letting out the leash very slowly to avoid largescale turmoil. In any case, having a democratic China as a neighbor will not assure peace. Dictatorships seem to readily find the ways and means to wage war, but I think we all know a certain democracy that has gone to war more often than any other country in the past, usually against small, weak countries.

  • 2

    BertieWooster

    China doesn't start wars on a whim, or a rumour, unlike other large countries that shall be nameless.

    China is primarily a trading country. It has always been one and probably will remain one.

    Out and out war would be suicide.

    They would lose everything, including their trade.

    And I'm sure they know this.

    There are, though, people who would like you to think that a war with China is imminent.

    We don't have to listen to them.

  • 1

    BertieWooster

    I sent one of my students to study English in England.

    She made friends with a Chinese girl studying at the same school.

    This girl, she said, didn't know how to ride buses or trains. She took taxis everywhere.

    When she went to pay for something, she usually paid by credit card. Apparently her wallet was full of Gold and Premium Credit Cards.

    I asked if the Chinese girl was from Taiwan, but my student said that she was from mainland China, the PRC.

    Since then, I find that there are not a few rich Chinese like this. One internet article pegs it at 1% of the population, which, in a country with a population of one quarter of the whole planet, is not a small number.

    Sydney is a playground for rich Chinese kids. Make no bones about it, these kids have MONEY.

    China is not really a communist country.

    Well, it is, but the edges are blurred, it's kind of fuzzy.

    For the have-nots, it's a communist country. For the haves, it's as capitalist as the good old US of A.

    Come to think of it, the U.S.A. is beginning to resemble China in many ways.

    Except that it's not very good at trading.

  • 2

    avigator

    @Bertie. Good post. Everything in this world boils down to one word: Control.

  • -1

    House Atreides

    "Under the current conditions, I hereby declare war will absolutely not occur," Tamogami asserts

    Maybe Tamogami should go back and study what the Chinese did at Damansky Island in 1969. The Chinese have no qualms about killing people over an island dispute.

  • 0

    OssanAmerica

    Pukey2Feb. 28, 2013 - 10:06AM JST Ossan: "China will transition into democracy also. "I can almost agree with everything you listed except for the above."

    For posters like you and elbuda, it's not a case of "China won't transition", but "I don't want China to transition".

    What nonsense. What does anyone, other than the CCP govt and govt-connected families, have to gain by China continuing it's authoritarian one-party dictatorship? You seriously can't see how much better it would be for the Chinese people and the whole world if China became a democracy?

  • 0

    A Realist

    neobiosFeb. 28, 2013 - 10:22AM JST

    China deserve to protect its country as much as any other countries around the world and the reason why its military is getting stronger is due to its economy obviously, richer it is the more budget to spend."


    Perhaps, except that Japan does not have quite the same right to protect its country quite as much as China or any other countries around the world due the the constitution that was imposed on it after WWII, but that is another story.

    There are couple of holes in your argument, however. In the first place nobody is threatening China, and in the second place it is is using its military to bully and threaten other countries.

  • 1

    Tony Ew

    @Athletes

    Even nationalist retired Japanese general of ASDF do not trust main stream media. Some posters are so naive about believing every wild west and high noon stories of ever milking media

    Thank you Athletes. I had wanted to say it bluntly, so here it is: There are a lot of SHEEPLES in Japan, just like in China, US, anywhere in the world! Sheeples = Sheep + People, easy to be led by lies fed to them. Why don't they just learn to THINK!

    I salute general Toshio Tamogami for explaining the MECHANICS OF WAR, he explained the PATTERN needed to conduct a war and he saw NONE from China so far. So people, just relax! China may be downright annoying to you but is totally harmless so far!

  • -1

    msmahumane@gmail.com

    At last one credible person has thrown in some sense in the mix. It is time for cool heads to prevail and vigourously promote peace in the region. Regardless who would win in case of war, the result would cause huge economic turmoil which would hurt both China and Japan and the world.

  • 1

    SwissToni

    Hiroshi Murayama, "I think my generation could use a war as a rallying point to give us some purpose".

    Can't remember the last time I saw something written as ridiculous as this. Dont forget how many of Japan's people suffered following its last rallying cry? You want to be careful what you wish for, it might come true.

  • 0

    LouReed

    China's military would CRUSH the SDF in a matter weeks if the US didn't step in to save the day. But I agree If China wanted a war they would just take the island and even then I doubt Japan would do anything other than whine about it to the UN.

  • 0

    mrmalice

    ofcourse they won't, it would turn global opinion against them if they took a first shot in the open. That's a bit of strategic common sense and even if probably not scared the japanese still have the space marines to back them up. No one really wants a fight with the space marines and it should be clear why if you look over the past ... 40 years ? Even if they dont win the place is left behind kinda messy. In my somewhat humble opinion nobody will start an open war over this BUT if it comes to that it will be becaused of some stupid accident with casualties that can be interpreted as the proverbial 'act of war'. If there are really provocative actions than this is the sole purpose : to have the other party lose its cool and take the first open shot. I dont know since i'm not there but i think that's more or less how this thing goes on the higher levels of society and government. I sincerely hope it does not come to that.

  • 0

    axle14

    LouReedMar. 01, 2013 - 11:34AM JST China's military would CRUSH the SDF in a matter weeks if the US didn't step in to save the day.

    What a senseless thing to say. In what or how technically did you get that thought referenced from? Is there even 1 event in history that could be at least referred to as to support your wishful thinking???

  • 0

    Japanfriend1959

    Thank You Sir for the sane report clarifying the illogical and the improbability China would rush to war.

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