Here's a short essay of mine on the China factor in Japan's defense White Paper. The White Paper that was released in June highlights important issues facing regional and international community such as WMD proliferation, safe and continued access to global commons like sea, outer space and cyber space, and international terrorism, from a Japanese perspective. In terms of the regional threat perception, North Korea and China figure prominently in the paper. Satoshi Morimoto, the Japanese Defence Minister, in his introduction to the White Paper, notes that the security environment faced by Japan is "increasingly harsh."
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Japan's new White Paper on defence was released on 25 June, 2013. A comprehensive document, the first part deals with the security environment both at the regional and global levels and then it looks at the defence policies of important countries and regions - the US, Korean Peninsula, China, Russia, Southeast Asia, South Asia, Australia and Europe - and important issues facing the international community such as WMD proliferation, safe and continued access to global commons like sea, outer space and cyber space, and international terrorism, from a Japanese perspective. However, the most interesting and pertinent one is the section on developing Japan's Dynamic Defence Force1.
Satoshi Morimoto, the Japanese Defence Minister, in his introduction to the White Paper, notes that the security environment faced by Japan is "increasingly harsh." The major emphasis on Japan's regional threat perception was on North Korea and China. North Korea's continuing nuclear and missile development efforts - including the recent missile test that Pyongyong called as a "satellite" test - was particularly highlighted. In addition to the three rounds of nuclear tests, Tokyo is worried that North Korea could be "developing nuclear weapons using highly-enriched uranium." Pyongyang's continuing development of delivery mechanisms, including the long-range ballistic missiles, also pose "a significant threat to Japan's security, and are absolutely unacceptable as they are significantly detrimental to the peace and stability in Northeast Asia and the international community."
Next, the White Paper focuses on China's military modernisation along with its rising defence budget. Even though China justifies Taiwan as the main driver of its modernisation, the report notes that China's rise as a major economic and political power will dictate it to expand its military capabilities and also that the global community will pay greater attention to China. However, the report notes that China's rapid expansion and modernisation of its military and the enhancement of its power projection capabilities, along with lack of transparency, are alarming not only to Japan and the region but also to the larger global community. While the report acknowledged that the publication of Chinese defence white papers since 1998 is a means to address the transparency issue, the document also notes that "China has not yet achieved the levels of transparency expected of a responsible major power in the international society."
The document noted that the Chinese strategy "emphasize(s) not only physical means but also non-physical means with respect to military affairs and warfare, incorporated the concept of "Three Warfares"-"Psychological Warfare," "Media Warfare," and "Legal Warfare"-into the tasks of the political work by military, and declared a policy of "close coordination between military struggle and political, diplomatic, economic, cultural, and legal endeavors."
As for the long-term plans and objectives, the White Paper said that China will want to reach "basic mechanization and achieve a major progress in construction of informatization by 2020." This is expected to be done with the long-standing primary objective of developing capabilities to win a local war under informationized conditions, while beefing up to undertake multiple and diverse military missions and "complete the historical military missions in a new phase of the new century."
The rising Chinese defence budget is a key issue. The paper says the nominal size of China's announced national defence budget has more than doubled in the past five years and has grown nearly 30-fold in the last 24 years. The paper noted that the announced figures are only a part of the actual military spending, pointing out that "equipment procurement costs and research and development expenses" are not part of the budget.
The paper, in addition, goes into great detail about the growing size of the Chinese inventory - various types and ranges of ballistic missiles: intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM), submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBM), intermediate-range ballistic missiles/medium-range ballistic missiles (IRBM/MRBM), and short-range ballistic missiles (SRBM) - and what it might mean for Japan and the region. In addition to procurement that goes unabated, the paper notes with alarm China's ability to serial production of missiles in large numbers for domestic as well as export purposes.
Increasing number of Chinese vessels in close proximity to Japanese waters engaged in information gathering activities and training exercises has also been highlighted in the White Paper. There have also been Chinese government ships "engaged in monitoring activities for protection of its maritime rights and interests" in addition to advancements by Chinese naval surface vessels to the Pacific Ocean since 2008.
China has criticised the new White Paper in harsh terms and has called on Japan to "conduct some introspection and do more to facilitate regional peace and stability." The criticism has been along expected lines, with China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Hua Chunying arguing that "China adheres to a road of peaceful development and pursues a national defense policy with a defensive nature," while dismissing the issue of opaqueness about the military and saying that it does not pose threat to any country. On the Senkaku islands, the spokeswoman said that China will "not change its position and determination" and that it will take any additional measure that is necessary to protect its sovereignty.
Given the growing number of challenges, Japan foresees development of defensive capability in accordance with the National Defense Program Guidelines and the Mid-Term Defense Program, despite difficult economic scenario. This defensive capability will involve development of the Dynamic Defense Force on a priority basis. The paper notes that in the backdrop of heightened military modernisation in the region, "not only deterrence through the existence of the defense force per se, but also "dynamic deterrence", which focuses on operational use of the defense force such as demonstrating the nation's will and its strong defense capabilities through timely and tailored military operations under normal conditions, is important."2
Japan has been changing in its security posture over the last several years. Its attempts to become a "normal" nation by assuming greater security responsibilities have been driven more by necessity than choice. While the US-Japan security alliance is key to Japan's security, the US distraction over the last few years in Afghanistan and Iraq forced Japan to re-examine its own security options. Also Japan has been assuming more security responsibilities in the international arena which became evident in the deployment of Japanese troops in Iraq and its naval vessels in the Arabian Sea in support of the US military operations in Afghanistan.
Also the growing partnership between the US and China has cast doubts in Tokyo about the credibility of the US-Japan alliance. Given such apprehensions, Japan has been developing new partnerships and strengthening old ones. The newer and enhanced role of the Self Defence Forces (SDFs) appears to have domestic support; a recent public survey showed a 91.7% approval for the SDFs. Thus, there is a high likelihood of a more "normal" and muscular Japan emerging in the coming years.
1. "Dynamic Defense Force" was first referred to in the 2010 National Defense Program Guidelines, with "response to large-scale disasters and various other situations" as one of the key roles assigned for this force. Maritime security and protection of the sea lanes are also highlighted as important roles.
2. Additionally, the paper said, "warning times of contingencies is shortening due to exponential advances in military technology. Thus, in order to respond speedily and seamlessly to a contingency, comprehensive operational performance such as readiness is increasingly important."