Interview: Tetsuo Kotani

Jumping in Pools is happy to continue our eighth iteration of our interview series. This interview is with Mr. Tetsuo Kotani, a Ph.D. candidate at Doshisha University in Kyoto and research fellow at the Ocean Policy Research Foundation in Tokyo, Japan. Mr. Kotani has recently written an article in the Japan Times.

1. China has recently been increasing its military budget. Do you feel that
the increase in spending could outstrip economic growth and cause the PRC to
reverse course?

Yes and no. I think China will continue to spend more in defense, even
if that outstrip its economic growth, since strong military is a
symbol of the Communist Party. China needs to keep its 8% economic
growth to create enough jobs domestically; otherwise the Communist
Party has to take care of more social unrest. If China fails to keep
the 8% economic growth and if China fails to reduce defense budget, it
is very likely that the PLA will be used to suppress social unrest.

2. Which branch of the Chinese military could be most destabilizing in East
Asian geopolitics?

The PLA Navy could. The stability of East Asia depends on the balance
between continental power of China and Russia and sea power of the
United States and Japan. China's maritime ambition is destabilizing
this balance.

3. If the United States decided to stop giving direct aid to Taiwan and
canceled the alliance, how could the ROC defend against the PRC threat?

I don't think the US Congress will abandon Taiwan unless Taiwan
unilaterally declares independence. Even if Taiwan's unilateral
behavior brings a military conflict, the United States still needs to
intervene in the end to keep the credibility of its commitment to the
region. In any event, if the U.S. withdraws its defense commitment to
Taiwan, Taiwan has little means to defend itself against the PRC
military threat.

4. Where do you see the next major East Asian conflagration happening?

In North Korea. A sudden collapse of Kim Jong-il could lead to a major
conflagration, possibly a North Korean civil war and international

5. How likely is it for Japan to develop nuclear weapons in the next twenty years?

Almost zero. Japan sees no strategic, military, political benefit in
developing its own nuclear weapons as long as the US provides credible
extended deterrence.

6. Is the Obama Administration using the appropriate tools to deal with North Korea?

Too early to know. Special Envoy Bosworth and others are now on the
road, searching both bilateral and multilateral talks with North
Korea. I think it has become clear that the international community
has little leverage on North Korean nuclear and missile programs.
North Korea is behaving like a baby but sensitive about their
interests. Adult supervision is necessary for us. Benign neglect would
just result in more North Korean nukes, larger missiles and their
proliferation in the black market. I think the Obama administration
needs to engage with North Korea, giving rewards for good behaviors
and punishments for bad behaviors.