Japan Strengthens Defenses with New Military Policy

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Niccolo and Donkey
Japan gets tough with new defense policy

Asia Times Online

Kosuke Takahaski

December 20, 2010

TOKYO - Faced with increasingly territorial belligerence from China and warmongering from North Korea, Japan has decided to adopt a new defense policy that aims to bolster more proactive, flexible and quick responses in the sea, land and air during the next decade - a big departure from a previous passive and pacifist defense posture.

The Japanese government on December 17 announced the new defense policy, officially called the National Defense Program Guidelines (NDPG), that will define the country's basic security policy for the next 10 years. The guidelines have drawn close attention from the international community, as they are the first defense policy that the center-left Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) has formulated since ousting the pro-US Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) last year.

This posture has also captured public attention because it was mapped out amid rising regional tensions, triggered by territorial disputes between China and Japan, the sinking of a South Korean warship in March and North Korea's bombardment of a South Korean island in November.

The new policy includes a proactive concept called the "Dynamic Defense Force" that aims to "increase the credibility of Japan's deterrent capability by promoting timely and active operations." This supersedes the previous, passive "Basic Defense Force Concept", built around the idea of "static deterrence". The guidelines see military modernization by China and its insufficient transparency as a "concern for the regional and global community." They also point to North Korea's nuclear and missile development programs as "immediate and grave destabilizing factors for regional security."

"For Japan, North Korea is an immediate threat," said Hideshi Takesada, professor and executive director at the National Institute for Defense Studies in Tokyo. "Meanwhile, China is Japan's medium to long-term concern, as it is boosting its submarine forces and anti-satellite weapons programs. China also has outer-space capacity to attack a US carrier by using a GPS (Global Positioning System)."

Departure from the Cold War-era posture
The new defense policy calls for a reorganization of Japanese troops. While reducing Cold War-era equipment and organizations, especially Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF) personnel in Hokkaido prefecture, the northernmost part of Japan facing Russia, it stresses the necessity to boost security around the Nansei Islands in Okinawa prefecture in the country's south, and in the East China Sea near China and Taiwan, a move that is apparently aimed at countering China's growing naval power. The JGSDF will also deploy coastal monitoring troops in some of the Nansei Islands, the nation's remotest area.

The quota for JGSDF personnel was reduced to 154,000 in 10 years from the current 155,000, the new NDPG showed.

As part of Japan's efforts to step up vigilance in the sea around Japan, The Japanese Ministry of Defence (MoD) decided to increase the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) submarine fleet to 22 from the current 16 by extending the working life of existing submarines. It will also increase the number of its Aegis-equipped destroyers, which carry the US/Japanese-developed Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) anti-ballistic-missile system, to six from the current four. Specifically, a ministry official said it would upgrade JDS Atago (DDG-177) and JS Ashigara (DDG-178).
As for air defense, the Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) Naha Base in Okinawa will add one more JASDF Tactical Fighter Squadron for a total of two. The JASDF will also boost its deployment of Patriot Advanced Capability-3 interceptor missiles to six air-defense groups across Japan from the current three, to counter the threat of North Korean and Chinese ballistic missiles, and enhance the performance of Aegis destroyers.

The national defense budget for the next five years will be around 23.49 trillion yen (US$279 billion), down by 750 billion yen from fiscal 2005-2009 due to Japan’s increasing budget deficit.

The new NDPG also calls for Japan to strengthen its defense cooperation with those countries with which it shares democratic values, like South Korea, Australia and India, in addition to its key ally, the United States, with whom it will also work to counter cyber attacks.

The defense guidelines said Japan "will study measures to follow the international trend of defense equipment," but did not clearly mention a review of Japan's longstanding arms-export ban due to protests by opposition lawmakers, whose support the government and ruling bloc cannot afford to lose as it seeks to pass key bills for fiscal 2011. But the door is still open for a possible future lifting of the export ban, a politically sensitive issue given Tokyo's pacifist constitution.

The guidelines also detailed a plan to create a Japanese version of the US National Security Council, aimed at dealing more effectively with diplomatic and security policies, without any sectionalism among related ministries.

China's response
Beijing has accused Tokyo of making irresponsible remarks in its new defense guidelines targeting China.

"The fact is that China's development since the reform and opening up has brought great opportunities for common prosperity to other countries in the world, including Japan," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said on December 17. "This is widely recognized and the international community will have a fair opinion on this. A certain individual country has no right to represent the international community and make irresponsible remarks on China's development."

Singaporean Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew said that Japanese naval power was stronger than China’s, but he saw the tide reversed in 10 years.

"Normally you [Japan] have better ships than they have. But they will build an aircraft carrier. So in 10 years they will have a bigger fleet than you, so you have to factor that into your calculations. These are the realities of power," he told the Strait Times in late September.
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