A Future Engineer’s Take: Security in Japan
A new weekly summer series from ASME Global Public Affairs Executive Intern Paul Cipparone, who is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering at George Mason University.
This week’s program was a change of pace as I explored a completely new-to-me topic. As an engineering student, the global security state is not something I am familiar with. Thus, it was informative to attend a speaking event at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) with General Koji Yamazaki, the Chief of Staff of the Joint Staff of the Japan Self-Defense Forces (JSDF). General Yamazaki spoke about Japan’s approach to security, potential threats that they’re watching, and how their role has changed, among other things.

One point that Gen. Yamazaki stressed continuously was the value of the U.S. military relationship with Japan. He pointed to joint exercises between the U.S. and Japan as representative of cooperation, specifically singling out an exercise that took place in May between the U.S., Japan, Australia, and South Korea. He explained that the U.S. and Japan could create a jointly beneficial security environment driven by ideals of multilateral military cooperation, democracy, and freedom of navigation.

Gen. Yamazaki noted that Japan faces two main challenges: changing circumstances and a different Japanese military position. The primary changing circumstance is the rise of China in the South Pacific and Indo-Pacific regions; they are shaking things up and other countries are taking advantage of the chaos. Similarly, the traditional battlefield has now expanded to new frontiers, which poses another challenge. These new battlefields include space, cyberspace, and the electromagnetic spectrum (5G).

The other main challenge to Japan, its different military position, is driven by several countries near it such as China, Russia and North Korea. Regarding China, he was concerned by the strengthening and operationalizing of their military and their occasional trespass into Japanese waters. In addition, the Chinese are creating artificial islands in the South China Sea, for what he opined as use for military outposts. Regarding North Korea, he said that their strength is in large-scale cyber units and nuclear and missile capabilities. Maintaining a strong alliance with South Korea is critical given the common threat. He also mentioned Russia, which has strong military power and is involved in a volatile situation regarding Ukraine.

Gen. Yamazaki was asked several interesting questions. First, he was asked what the current perception of the JSDF is in Japan, contextualized by its prior unpopularity. He said that the JSDF is much more trusted now. Its main goal used to be countering the Soviet Union. Now, he says, its main goal is protecting the Japanese people whether by aiding with disaster relief or by staying abreast of the regional security situation. Another question was Yamazaki’s opinion on Huawei technology being used in 5G communications equipment. He replied that the JSDF is closely watching Huawei and is concerned about its involvement in 5G. In general, he said, technological development can be a great opportunity, but it also has security implications.

I liked the presentation overall. There were some things that were hard to understand given my lack of background knowledge on the topic. However, that inspires me to learn more about global security and its effects on engineering. You can learn more about the event here: https://www.csis.org/events/japans-current-security-environment-and-direction-further-strengthening-japan-us-alliance.

I am looking forward to next week’s event! I am not sure what my topic will focus on since Congress is currently in recess and the pace on Capitol Hill has slowed down. That said, one of the nice things about engineering is that everything relates to it in some way. Next week, you may just be reading about something else that is completely new for me. Stay tuned!

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