Defense focus shifts from Russia to China

Beijing's rising military might, North's threat key concerns


The administration endorsed a new defense guideline Friday that focuses on China’s growing military activities instead of former Cold War foe Russia and paints North Korea as a regional security threat.

The revised National Defense Program Guideline outlines defense policy for the next 10 years starting with fiscal 2011 and is the first drafted under the leadership of Prime Minister Naoto Kan and his Democratic Party Japan.

The guideline describes China’s military rise and other actions as a “matter of concern for the region and the international community.”

It is the strongest language the guideline has ever used for China. The previous version, crafted in 2004, said Japan should “remain attentive” to Beijing’s future actions.

“Our country is encircled by severe security situations and I believe that we were able to lay out a security and defense policy appropriate for the new era,” Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa said.

The guideline introduces “dynamic defense capabilities,” under which the Self-Defense Forces would be ready and mobile to meet a range of situations, including terrorist attacks and invasions of Japan’s remote islands.

“The new concept of dynamic defense capabilities can deal with the new and complex security environment of current times,” Kitazawa said, calling the notion “innovative.”

The guideline shifts from Russia as a possible threat to China, and beefing up the SDF presence on remote islands in case of an attack around the Nansei Islands between Kyushu and Taiwan.

Together with the new guideline, the government approved the five-year Midterm Defense Program, which maps out the specific military posture.

The defense budget was set at ¥23.39 trillion with an additional ¥100 billion ceiling for unexpected situations.

The 10-year policy outline states that China’s growing defense budget and military activities in nearby waters and lack of transparency in military issues is of “regional and international concern.”

The guideline calls North Korea’s military activities, including its recent deadly shelling of a South Korean island and its development of weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles “an urgent and grave destabilizing factor” in regional security.

The guideline calls for strengthening cooperation not only with the United States but also with South Korea and Australia, which “share fundamental values and many security interests” with Japan.

An appendix to the 10-year guideline that lists specific levels of personnel and hardware shows that the number of submarines will be increased from the current 16 to 22, but Ground Self-Defense Force personnel will be cut by 1,000 to 154,000 and tanks will be reduced from the current 600 to about 400.

Kitazawa was initially also keen on lifting the long-standing ban on arms exports, but the government gave up on that idea after strong protests from the Social Democratic Party.

The ruling DPJ-Kokumin Shinto (People’s New Party) coalition needs the SDP’s cooperation to get the fiscal 2011 budget through the divided Diet.

Instead, the outline merely says the government will consider measures to deal with the changing international environment over military research and development.

“We are clearly aware of the problems that need to be dealt with” over the arms export ban, Kitazawa said. “But it is based on the long-standing fundamental principle of our pacifist country, and there needs to be thorough discussion among the public and in the Diet, which represents the people.”

The National Defense Guideline was first drafted in 1976. This is the fourth time it has been revised. The last update was in 2004 under the Liberal Democratic Party. The original deadline for the new guideline was last year, but the DPJ pushed it back for a year to review defense policy after the change in government.

Tokyo ‘irresponsible’

BEIJING (Kyodo) Responding to Japan’s newly adopted defense policy Friday, the Chinese Foreign Ministry denied the country poses a threat to any nation and slammed Tokyo’s views as “irresponsible.”

“China adheres to a path of peaceful development and pursues a national defense policy that is defensive in nature,” spokeswoman Jiang Yu said in a response posted on the ministry website. “It is not our intention to threaten, nor does (China) constitute a threat to anyone.

“Individual countries have no right to represent the international community and make irresponsible remarks on China’s development,” Jiang said.

Japan is among countries that have benefited from the “tremendous opportunities for shared prosperity” that China’s development has brought, she added.

In a policy outline Japan adopted Friday, it expressed increased concern about China’s military rise and assumed a new defense posture enabling more flexible responses to threats, including terrorism and North Korean missiles, and beefed-up security around its remote islands.