Incidents like the one between Taiwan and the Philippines this past week are fueling an arms race in Southeast Asia and beyond. The annual defense fair in Singapore had plenty of visitors this week checking out the latest in military hardware. Japan's public broadcaster, NHK, reported on this weapons bonanza on May 15, and we have the transcript from the piece.
The three day long arms show opens on Tuesday. It is held once every two years. And attracts mainly naval officers from Asia, and elsewhere. On display are mockups of the latest missiles and vessels along with radar equipment. Not just China and India, Asian countries like Singapore, Indonesia, and Vietnam are also keen to modernize their military assets. Participants from Southeast Asian nations appear to be more inquisitive than ever. They attentively listen to their exhibitors and try to collect up to date information on the arms on offer.
The background to all this activity is China's escalation of its maritime power. In March, a Chinese ship reportedly fired a Vietnamese fishing boat in the disputed South China Sea. In the same month, China conducted a large scale military exercise off Malaysia. Every year Beijing increases its defense spending by about 10 percent, putting great pressure on Southeast Asian nations.
We have planned to upgrade our system and then we tried to make our armed forces bigger.
Also on display at Singapore's Naval base are real vessels and warships from different navies. Showing the greatest presence was the United States. It showcased for the first time a vessel that can operate in shallow waters. It's called a Letoro Combat Ship, or LCS. And it can travel at more than 70 kilometers per hour. It's capable of a variety of missions including, mine clearing, anti-surface operations, and anti-submarine warfare. It's low height enables it to cruise shallow waters where conventional warships cannot maneuver. The US chose Singapore as the vessel's first deployment site. Last week the US Secretary of the Navy came to Singapore to inspect the vessel for the main event.
Freedom and LCS's are tangible, essential elements of America's commitment to this strategy to this region, to the Asia Pacific. That commitment will not waver and is not in doubt.
The US continues its arms buildup in the Asia Pacific region despite domestic pressure to cut its defense spending. One expert says this US military shift will have an impact on China's Naval strategy.
It sends a signal that the US is here and that it's putting some substance behind its declaratory commitments.
In the face of an emboldened China, the US is trying to maintain its influence. The struggle between the two major powers over the waters of Asia appears to be growing.
Japanese politicians are in hot water for their take on history. And Osaka's mayor, Toru Hashimoto, put his foot in his mouth this week when he said that comfort women were necessary for soldier morale during World War Two. The term comfort women refers to sex slaves who were forced to cater to Japanese soldiers. On May 14, Japanese broadcaster NHK reported on reactions to Mayor Hashimoto's remarks.
Osaka mayor Toru Hashimoto has a reputation for making attention grabbing remarks. Now that he's also the coleader of the National Japan Restoration party what he says has even more impact. His latest statement is no exception.
The Comfort Women system was necesssary for brave soldiers who were in the line of fire. Anyone can understand that.
Hashimoto says the comfort woman system helped maintain discipline and that various countries had similar setups during the war. He argues the claim that Japanese systematically abducted women and forced them into prostitution hasn't been proven. At the same time, he says it was a tragic consequence of war if anyone served as a comfort woman against her will. The Japanese government issued a statement in 1993 admitting that comfort women were forced to work in military brothels. It apologized to the women. They came from Japan, the Korean Peninsula and other parts of Asia. Hashimoto made it clear he supports the apology. His remarks also touched on US military forces in Okinawa. Some troops have been involved in sex related crimes over the years. Hashimoto says when he visited the southern islands he made a suggestion to senior US military officers.
I had asked them to let Marines in Okinawa use local sex related services.
Members of the government have lined up to criticize Hashimoto's views.
A comfort women system is definitely a breach of women's rights.
I think his remarks come at a bad time. I'm not sure why he said that. Considering the way the situation is right now.
South Korean leaders have recently criticized Japanese politicians for their approach to Japan's past wartime aggression. Media in South Korea have reacted harshly to Hashimoto's statement saying he used abusive words. The comfort women issue has long been a source of tension between the two nations. Hashimoto's remarks will likely make navigating this delicate issue even harder.
In Japan, the achingly slow recovery of the country's nuclear power facilities continues to burden not only politics and the economy, but perhaps more importantly the environment. The risk of nuclear contamination has grown worse since the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that disabled the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear reactor. Plant operators are running out of space to store the tons of water needed to cool the spent radioactive fuel, and now that water is leaking into the groundwater and ocean. This week, a non-governmental group of scientists are studying the impact of the radioactive water that has run into the Pacific Ocean. On May 14, Japanese broadcaster NHK reported on the scientific mission.
Scientists from Japanese and the US institution are on a mission to check the health of the Pacific off Fukushima. Thirty-six researchers will spend 10 days aboard the ship testing the waters below. They will collect samples of water, sediment and marine life at 15 locations.
We're looking two years plus after the accident and now it's more the longer term fate of, say, cesium on the sea floor into the biota and the water concentrations are much lower. But still to try to determine how much is still continuing to come from the reactor area.
Officials with Tokyo Electric Power Company have conducted their own surveys of Fukushima-Daiichi. These researchers are the first from outside TEPCO to test the ocean within five kilometers of the plant.