Japan’s New White Paper Cites Concerns About North Korea, China
By WENDELL MINNICK, TAIPEI
Japan’s Ministry of Defense released its annual defense white paper July 6, citing the continued threat from North Korea, and concerns over China’s intentions and the future of China-Taiwan relations.
Released just one day after the swearing in of the new defense minister, Yuriko Koike, the report also highlights milestones over the past 12 months — including the withdrawal of Japan Ground Self Defense Forces from Iraq, North Korea’s nuclear test, the enactment of the special measures law to realign U.S. troops in Japan, deployment of Patriot Advanced Capability-3 units to Iruma, establishment of the Council for Examination of Drastic Reforms in the Personnel Field of the Defense Force, and the transition of the defense agency into a full fledged ministry.
North Korea and Missile Defense
The report cited North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction as a serious threat to Japan’s security. It also sounded a note of caution on North Korean promises to dismantle its nuclear capability, and called for answers regarding Japanese citizens kidnapped by North Korea.
“Concerns over North Korea’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles have grown more serious. North Korea went ahead with a ballistic missile launch in July of last year, and announced in October that it had conducted an underground nuclear test. These actions are seen as clear threats to the peace and security of not only Japan but also the rest of the world, and the international community strongly condemned these actions and took firm steps that included a U.N. Security Council resolution,” said the report.
“In February 2007 the Six-Party Talks adopted ‘Initial Actions for the Implementation of the Joint Statement,’ marking an important first step toward denuclearization, but progress in the nuclear issue and North Korea’s posture bear careful monitoring. The abduction of Japanese citizens by North Korea also poses a major threat to the lives and security of the Japanese public, and the solution of this problem requires more sincere actions by North Korea.”
To deal with the ballistic missile threat from North Korea, Japan in 2003 announced plans to begin a ballistic missile defense program. It is based on a multitier defense system that involves Aegis vessels for upper-tier interception and Patriot PAC-3 for lower-tier interception.
In March 2007, PAC-3s were deployed to Iruma Air Base and there are plans to acquire SM-3 missiles for Aegis-equipped ships.
“The current target is to develop a system by FY 2011 that links the command/communication system with four Aegis vessels (with the added BMD capability), sixteen Patriot PAC-3 fire units, four FSP-5 radar, and seven FPS-3 radars,” said the report.
The report detailed Japan’s response to the North Korean missile tests conducted in July. North Korea launched seven missiles into the Sea of Japan, including a Taepodong-2 that “disintegrated in midair.”
China and Taiwan
The report also focused on China as a security concern. It pointed out a lack of transparency in Chinese military modernization, questions over weapon development and concerns over China’s recent anti-satellite test.
“In particular, China, a regional power with tremendous political and economic influence, has been continually boosting its defense spending and modernizing its military forces, drawing international attention to its presence,” said the report.
“There are also concerns about the lack of transparency regarding China’s military capabilities, and the absence of a sufficient explanation by the Chinese government about the destruction of one of its own satellites in a test in January of this year has made other countries, including Japan, apprehensive with regard to the peaceful use of space and their own security.”
The report also looks closely at the balance across the Taiwan Strait between Beijing and Taipei, concluding that China’s military modernization will eventually overpower Taiwan, but at present China has little effective way of using military force against Taiwan.
“China outnumbers Taiwan, but Chinese capabilities for airborne and seaborne landings on the Taiwan mainland are limited, and China is committed to constructing large landing ships. Concerning naval and air forces, China has outnumbered Taiwan in terms of quantity, while Taiwan has had qualitative superiority so far,” said the report.
The report also cites the danger posed by the 700 missiles China has aimed at the island.
The release of the report comes at a sensitive time for Japan’s military and government. Japan’s first minister of defense, Fumio Kyuma, was forced to resign after making remarks suggesting the use of atomic weapons by the United States in World War II was justified. The remarks came just weeks before a national election July 29 for a new prime minister.
The report also reviews the increased number of military exercises and agreements with other countries besides the United States.
“Japan has been promoting security dialogue and defense exchanges, including bilateral and multilateral defense exercises. As part of such efforts, the Japan-Australia Joint Declaration on Security Cooperation was released in March this year. In April of the same year, Japan has its first defense policy dialogue with India,” said the report.
U.S. relations have been further enhanced with the Two-Plus-Two meeting in May 2007 and the Japan-U.S. Defense Ministers Meeting in April 2007. Both meetings covered the realignment of U.S. forces in Japan, including the movement of bases and forces from Futenma Air Station, relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps force in Okinawa to Guam, and the return of land south of Kadena Air Base, Okinawa.
There were also discussions on Japan’s F-X fighter program, U.S.-Japan cooperation on ballistic missile defense and intelligence sharing.