Wandering China

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Japan defence sights set on China, N. Korea [Straits Times]


Japan repositions its ‘defensive stance’  due to regional threats from China and North Korea ‘… increasing Chinese naval activities in the waters around Japan in recent years and the collision between a Chinese trawler and Japanese Coast Guard vessels near the disputed Senkaku islands in September underline the new threat posed by China.’

And in response, this is what China says – ‘No country has the right to appoint themselves the representative of the international community and make irresponsible comments on China’s development,’ Foreign Ministry spokesman Jiang Yu said in a statement.

– – –

Japan defence sights set on China, N. Korea
Defence policy revision reflects its new security concerns
By Kwan Weng Kin, Japan Correspondent
Source – Straits Times, published December 18, 2010

Japan Maritime Self-Defence Force sailors during the Self-Defence Forces Day troops review in October. The naval and air forces are the focus of the new arms build-up programme. –PHOTO: ASSOCIATED PRESS

TOKYO: Japan’s Democrat-led government has abandoned a decades-old Soviet-era, Cold War defence posture to focus on new security concerns at its doorstep, namely China and North Korea.

The new defence policy aimed at countering in particular China’s rising military power was approved by the Kan Cabinet yesterday. It will cover about 10 years beginning next year, but could be reviewed earlier if necessary.

The defence policy revision is the first in six years and the first since the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) came to power in September last year.

Despite changes in the security environment, the government pledges to maintain an ‘exclusively defensive’ stance.

‘A full-scale invasion against Japan is unlikely today, but the security challenges and destabilising factors which Japan faces are diverse, complex and intertwined,’ says the new defence outline.

Japan is therefore moving towards creating a more mobile force that would be capable of a swifter response in an emergency.

The country’s first mid-term defence outline was set out in 1976, when the then Soviet Union was considered the main threat. The deployment of the Self-Defence Force, Japan’s de facto military, was thus concentrated on the northern island of Hokkaido, along with tank divisions in the event of an invasion.

However, increasing Chinese naval activities in the waters around Japan in recent years and the collision between a Chinese trawler and Japanese Coast Guard vessels near the disputed Senkaku islands in September underline the new threat posed by China.

Beijing issued a prompt response yesterday, criticising Tokyo for making ‘irresponsible’ remarks.

‘No country has the right to appoint themselves the representative of the international community and make irresponsible comments on China’s development,’ Foreign Ministry spokesman Jiang Yu said in a statement.

Meanwhile, North Korea’s recent artillery attack on a South Korean island and Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile development programmes underscore the continued lack of stability in the security environment of North-east Asia.

Yesterday, the Japanese Cabinet also endorsed a new five-year arms build-up programme that will cost 23.5 trillion yen (S$366.6 billion). The figure is 3.2 per cent less than that for the 2005-2009 period because of the country’s deteriorating fiscal situation.

To boost the protection of Japan’s south-western corner, which includes Okinawa and outlying islands such as the Senkakus (which China calls the Diaoyu islands), the new mid-term programme will focus on building up the country’s naval and air forces.

Japan plans to increase the number of submarines from 16 now to 22. Its current fleet of four Aegis vessels, which are capable of intercepting missiles, will be boosted to six. The number of tanks will be cut from 600 to 400, and personnel costs will be shaved by reducing ground troops by 1,000 to 154,000.

However, a 100-strong coastal monitoring force will be set up to keep a closer watch on Chinese naval activities near Japan.

The new defence outline also pledges to enhance Japan’s security alliance with the United States, in a clear warning to China that Japan intends to work closely with the US to boost regional security.

Earlier this month, the US and Japanese forces took part in a joint military drill near Okinawa, rehearsing initiatives for the protection of outlying islands such as the Senkakus. Japanese media also gave unprecedented coverage to the activities of American troops aboard the US aircraft carrier George Washington, which took part in the drill, emphasising Tokyo’s close security ties with Washington.

Hours after approving the new defence outline, Prime Minister Naoto Kan flew to Okinawa for talks with local politicians in a bid to resolve the longstanding problem of relocating the US Futenma airbase. The trip was aimed at highlighting the importance that his administration places on improving the US-Japan security relationship.

Nevertheless, newly elected Okinawa governor Hirokazu Nakaima is opposed to relocating Futenma to another part of the prefecture.

For the new defence outline, the Kan administration dropped a plan to allow Japan to export military weapons, in deference to the Socialist party, which opposes such a policy, but it left open the possibility that the option could be reviewed in future.

Mr Kan is hoping to secure Socialist cooperation in passing major policy Bills in Parliament over the coming months.

wengkin@sph.com.sg

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Filed under: International Relations, japan, military, North Korea, Politics, Straits Times, Strategy

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