Japan is deeply concerned that China’s rapidly expanding maritime and airspace activities around the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea could trigger an unwanted clash, the Defense Ministry said Tuesday in its white paper for 2014.
The annual report, approved by the Cabinet, also expresses concern over North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats, saying Pyongyang considers its nuclear arms development as a vital deterrent against the United States as Kim Jong Un tries to solidify his grip on power.
“Security issues and destabilizing factors are further escalating in the Asia-Pacific region, including the area surrounding our country,” the paper says.
Given the changing security environment, Japan needs to enhance its defense capabilities and bolster the alliance with the United Sates, it says.
On the recent decision by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration to reinterpret the Constitution to allow Japan to exercise the right to collective self-defense, the white paper states it was a “historically important” move to bolster the country’s peace and security.
The Air Self-Defense Force scrambled fighter jets 810 times against planes threatening to enter Japanese airspace, in fiscal 2013, the paper says, exceeding 800 for the first time in 24 years. About 95 percent of the cases were in response to Chinese or Russian aircraft.
The paper criticized China’s abrupt imposition last November of an air defense identification zone (ADIZ) over an area of the East China Sea that covers the Senkakus, the uninhabited islands administered by Japan but claimed by China, where they are called Diaoyu.
Beijing “unjustifiably infringed on the principle of freedom of flight in airspace above high seas,” because foreign aircraft entering the zone are forced to follow China’s rules and identify themselves, it says.
Citing incidents in May and June in which Japan said Chinese fighter jets came dangerously close to ASDF aircraft in areas where the two countries’ ADIZs overlap, the paper criticizes Beijing for providing a false account of those cases and for saying that Japan took dangerous actions.
The white paper notes that China’s defense budget has quadrupled in the past decade, reaching 808.2 billion yuan (about ¥12.9 trillion) for fiscal 2014, up 12 percent from the previous year.
Japan’s defense budget stood at ¥4.78 trillion in fiscal 2014, an increase from ¥4.68 trillion the previous year, the paper says.
As for North Korea, the paper warns that if Pyongyang further enhances its ballistic missile technologies and succeeds in developing miniaturized nuclear warheads, it may build up confidence in its deterrent power, and may step up its military provocations.