February 7, 2023

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Japan approves long-range weapons to counter growing threat from China, North Korea and Russia

Tokyo Eureka News Now —

Japan unveiled a new national security plan on Friday, signaling the country’s biggest military buildup since World War II, doubling defense spending and deviating from its pacifist constitution amid mounting threats from regional rivals.

In an early evening televised address in Tokyo, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said the government had approved three security documents — the National Security Strategy (NSS), the National Defense Strategy and the Defense Forces Development Plan — to bolster Japan’s defense capabilities in an increasingly volatile security environment .

The new measures include provisions that would allow Japan to possess “counterstrike capability,” the ability to directly attack another country’s territory in an emergency and under certain circumstances, Kishida said.

According to Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada, in early December the prime minister directed his defense and finance ministers to allocate funds to increase Japan’s defense budget to 2% of current GDP by 2027.

With the new defense initiatives, Japan is bending the interpretation of its post-World War II constitution, which restricted its self-defense forces to being used only for what their name suggests, namely the defense of the Japanese homeland.

But Tokyo faces its most hostile security situation in decades.

With its defense overhaul, Japan is describing one of those rivals – China – as its “top strategic challenge,” public broadcaster NHK reported on Friday.

Longtime rival China has been expanding its naval and air forces in areas near Japan while claiming the Senkaku Islands, an uninhabited Japanese-controlled chain in the Sea of ​​Japan, also known as the East Sea, as its sovereignty.

Chinese ships have made frequent forays near the islands they call Diaoyus, while Japan sends fighter jets near its airspace almost daily in response to Chinese planes.

Meanwhile, China has increased its military pressure on Taiwan, the self-governing island whose security Japanese leaders say is vital to the security of Japan itself. That pressure included Beijing’s August launch of five missiles that landed in Taipei in Japan’s Exclusive Economic Zone near Taiwan in response to US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit.

From its west, Japan is watching the buildup of North Korea’s missile arsenal. Pyongyang has tested missiles 34 times this year, including firing one over Japan in October for the first time in five years, an act Kishida called “outrageous.”

In northern Japan, a Russian build-up on the islands there since the start of the Ukraine war and belligerent rhetoric from Moscow have only added to fears in Tokyo that it may have to defend its territories against multiple threats at once.

While Japan is considered one of the most advanced and powerful militaries in the world, its weapons were designed to hit enemies near its islands. But the new defense strategy, which public broadcaster NHK said earlier this week, would give Tokyo weapons like US-made Tomahawk missiles that could hit the bases from which would-be enemies like China, North Korea or Russia launched Japanese territory could attack.

According to Self-Defense Force officials, Japan’s current anti-missile defense systems cannot attack an incoming target until it is within a range of about 50 kilometers. But China, for example, has missiles that can be fired from a variety of warplanes at ranges of up to 300 kilometers.

Tokyo says any new long-range weapons it might acquire would not be “first strike weapons,” but would only be used if an enemy attacks Japan first.

Tokyo’s new defense strategy has been praised by its No. 1 ally, the United States, which shares a mutual defense treaty with Japan and has pledged to protect Japanese territory from attack. The United States also operates several major military installations in Japan, including Yokosuka Naval Base, home of the US Navy’s 7th Fleet.

“We welcome the release of Japan’s updated strategy documents…reflecting Japan’s unwavering commitment to maintaining the international rules-based order and a free and open Indo-Pacific,” US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said in a statement.

“We support Japan’s decision to acquire new capabilities that strengthen regional deterrence, including counter-strike capabilities,” Austin said.

Experts say Japanese forces are vital to any potential US military operation against China should hostilities break out.

Japan approves long-range weapons to counter growing threat from China, North Korea and Russia

“The Japanese military is incredibly capable. … At a time of large-scale conflicts in East Asia, including a possible conflict in the Taiwan Strait, Japan would play a very important and capable role,” said Ankit Panda, a Stanton Senior Fellow in the Carnegie Foundation’s Nuclear Policy Program for International Peace.

“Japan will be a very important partner at a moment of conflict in East Asia, especially for the United States.”

Given the scale of the changes to Japan’s defense policy, the country’s main opposition party said on Friday Kishida had not done enough to talk to them about the changes.

“There was no information, no explanation and no discussion with the public or the state legislature, although we are deciding things that will significantly change Japan’s post-war security policy,” Kenta Izumi, leader of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, told a news conference .

But Panda and others have warned there are no controls on what is a rampant arms race in Asia – and it is fueling regional instability.

“I think this will further increase the threat perception in both Pyongyang and Beijing. And we will continue to see this dynamic spiraling in East Asia. Where we have no restraint measures. We don’t have arms control,” Panda said.

As reports of Japan’s defense build-up have surfaced in recent months, China has warned Tokyo of the potential consequences of increasing its military power.

On the sidelines of the 2022 Pacific Amphibious Leaders Symposium at the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force's Camp Kisarazu on April 16,

In a regular press briefing in early December, China’s foreign ministry accused Japan of “intensifying regional tensions in order to make military breakthroughs,” saying Japan must “reflect seriously on its history of aggression, respect the security concerns of its Asian neighbors, and act prudently on the issue.” military security and do more things that contribute to peace and stability in the region.”

An editorial in China’s state tabloid Global Times on Wednesday denounced the new security policy even before it was unveiled.

“The signal it releases is undoubtedly very dangerous,” it said.

“Using this to guide national security strategy will definitely lead Japan into a dangerous and barbaric drift, and the end is a giant dark vortex. We advise Japan to take it easy,” said the Global Times.

Much of the tension between China and Japan is centered on Taiwan. For more than 70 years, the two sides have been governed separately, but that hasn’t stopped China’s ruling Communist Party from claiming the island — although it has never controlled it.

Last December, the late former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced that “an emergency in Taiwan is a Japanese emergency and therefore an emergency for the Japan-US alliance,” and urged Chinese leader Xi Jinping to “never make a misjudgment” on the matter. – a statement that resonated throughout East Asia.

But analysts say it wasn’t until China launched military exercises around Taiwan in August, firing those missiles into Japan’s Exclusive Economic Zone, that Tokyo really sat up and took notice of Beijing’s plans on the island.

“It was a wake-up call,” said Professor Kuo Yu-Jen of Taiwan’s National Sun Yet-Sen University, who specializes in Japanese defense policy. “It drew their attention and concern to how relevant Taiwan’s security is to Japan’s own security.”

Given Taiwan’s strategic location on the first chain of islands — a series of US-friendly territories vital to US foreign policy — and along a key global shipping route, should the island fall under Beijing’s control, it could potentially become Japan’s economic lifeline and China’s lifeline give naval unimpeded access to the western Pacific.

“Japan’s position is clear and unwavering – Taiwan is fundamental to its own security; it’s not just a stress point in its bilateral relations with China,” Yasuhiro Matsuda, a professor of international politics at the University of Tokyo and a former senior researcher at the Defense Ministry, told Eureka News Now.