Kishida to make Japan’s case on air defense dispute in Germany

Kyodo

Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida plans to visit Germany to speak at a security conference in Munich from late January, government sources said Wednesday, a move aimed at airing Japan’s concern over China’s establishment of an air defense zone over parts of the East China Sea that covers the disputed Senkaku Islands.

Kishida’s envisioned participation in the Munich Security Conference comes as China has drawn sharp reaction from Japan and the United States over what Tokyo describes as Beijing’s “profoundly dangerous acts that unilaterally change the status quo.”

The conference is a well-known international forum on security and draws many government ministers and military officials from countries belonging to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

Kishida’s participation would be the “best opportunity to get European countries to understand the drastically changing security environment in Asia,” one of the sources said, with China’s rapid military buildup in mind.

In his speech, Kishida is expected to emphasize that China’s recent move may cause “unintended consequences” by escalating the already high tension between Japan and China over the Japanese-administered islets, which are contested by China, according to the sources.

He is also expected to appeal to other participants that the Chinese move, under which Beijing says it could take “defensive emergency measures” against those who do not follow its instructions, infringes upon the general principle of international law, such as the freedom of flight in international airspace.

Additionally, Kishida plans to explain the recent security-related steps taken by the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, such as the move to establish a U.S.-style National Security Council and the attempt to enable Japan to engage in collective self-defense.

The Abe government is seeking to change Tokyo’s long-standing position that while the country has the right to collective self-defense — or coming to the aid of an ally under attack — it cannot exercise the right due to limits imposed by its war-renouncing Constitution.

The conference is scheduled to run for three days from Jan. 31. Kishida envisions visiting only Germany, but his planned trip will ultimately depend on the situation surrounding the ordinary Diet session expected to convene in mid-January, according to the sources.

Yasukazu Hamada, who attended the forum in 2009 as defense minister, is the last Japanese Cabinet minister to have taken part in it.

The sovereignty dispute between Japan and China over the uninhabited islets, which are called Diaoyu in China, has heated up, particularly since the Japanese government bought major parts of the islet group from a private Japanese landowner in September 2012 in an attempt to bring them under state control.