TOKYO — Japan announced a new defense policy on Friday that will respond to China’s rising military might by building more submarines and other mobile forces capable of defending Japan’s southernmost islands.
The new National Defense Program Guidelines are the biggest step yet in a decade-long shift away from cold war-era deployments of heavy tank and artillery units on the northern island of Hokkaido — to counter a now-vanished Soviet threat — and toward bolstering Japanese forces in the southern islands around Okinawa, where China’s navy has become a growing presence.
The new guidelines also used uncharacteristically strong language to warn of China’s rapidly modernizing military, calling it “a matter of concern for the region and the international community.” China’s growing naval capabilities have been a particular concern in Japan since Beijing and Tokyo clashed diplomatically three months ago over uninhabited islands claimed by both nations but controlled by Japan. The islands are called the Senkaku in Japanese and Diaoyu in Chinese.
In Beijing, the Foreign Ministry criticized the new policy as “irresponsible” and suggested that it was based on a misunderstanding of China’s intentions. “China adheres to the road of peaceful development and pursues a defensive national defense policy,” Jiang Yu, the Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, said in a statement. “We have no intention to be a threat to anyone.”
The new policy called for increasing the number of Japan’s submarines to 22 from the current 16, while reducing the number of tanks by a third to about 400. It also called for creating more mobile forces, which analysts have said could include creating new air and seaborne units that could quickly move to defend remote islands.
The guidelines also called for increasing military cooperation with the United States, Japan’s postwar protector, and other democracies in the region including South Korea, Australia and India. It did not address recent requests from Washington for the Japanese military, known as the Self-Defense Forces, to join in three-way drills with the United States and South Korea that would be aimed at North Korea.
Japan has long resisted American calls to increase its military role in the region because of the constraints of its pacifist postwar Constitution and the bitter memories of devastating defeat in World War II. The new guidelines seemed to indicate a willingness to slightly raise Japan’s military profile, but only in a defensive manner, and in conjunction with the United States.
The guidelines also called for reconsidering Japan’s self-imposed ban on the export of weapons, a step that would make it easier for Japan to join other nations, and particularly the United States, in the joint development of expensive new weapons systems.
Japan has already joined the United States in developing new anti-missile systems. Friday’s guidelines called for deploying more Patriot interceptor missiles to shoot down ballistic missiles from North Korea, which has been developing missiles and nuclear weapons.
The new guidelines were to have been released last year but were delayed by the Democratic Party’s election victory that ended a half-century of virtual one-party rule in Japan.
After initially disagreeing with Washington over an American air base on Okinawa, the left-leaning Democrats under Prime Minister Naoto Kan have moved closer to the United States, pushed by concerns over China’s increasing influence and North Korean provocations like last month’s shelling of a South Korean island.
Japan Throws Aside its Pacifist Post WWII Military Doctrine
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- The Japanese government encouraged by the United States round-the-clock show of military capabilities against global adversaries has just decided to switch its own long-held post WWII pacifism into a more confrontational one.
Tokyo cited the rise of China’s military and its military presence around disputed islands as the reason behind change in its military doctrine. Japan’s claims on the Kuril Islands are also increasing tensions with Moscow. The Japanese economy experienced rapid growth after WWII devastations until a decade ago when the last Asian financial crisis seem to have permanently damaged its once innovative export-driven economy under the merci of China or even South Korea.
On Friday the administration of Naoto Kan, decided to confront Chinese military buildup and North Korea’s progress in the field of nuclear technology. Tokyo plans almost 24 trillion yen defense spending for five years. Like most Western industrial nations’ blind pursuit of US-led casino capitalism, Japan today suffers under huge public debt that is at least twice the size of its GDP.
Apparently, since it would be difficult to harness a behemoth like China, both Tokyo and Washington may be seeing the rising tensions on the Korean Peninsula as a lifetime opportunity. Elimination of South Korea’s industrial exports after a devastating war with powerful North Korea would ensure that both Japan and U.S. could have the chance to fill in after South Korean exports, thus giving themselves some temporary comforts. That might explain why recently Washington and Tokyo drew up joint military agreement to counter China, while at the same time US and South Korea separately conduct their joint military maneuvers near disputed areas.
A newly published report by the Japanese military reflected the growing anxiety over China’s rising power, rapid modernization of its military and maritime activities. It noted, ‘These movements, coupled with the lack of transparency in its military and security matters, have become a matter of concern for the region and the international community’ The reported also viewed North Korea’s rapid development in the field of nuclear technology as a present and grave destabilizing factor to the security of our country and the region.....