National / Politics

Beijing’s South China Sea militarization becoming fait accompli: defense paper

Kyodo

Japan will express its wariness over China’s muscle-flexing in the South China Sea in this year’s defense white paper, warning Beijing’s militarization of the disputed waters is making its territorial claims a fait accompli, Kyodo News has learned.

The white paper, which the Cabinet is expected to approve early next month, will say China’s activities in the South China Sea could be called high-handed, unilateral action to change the status quo, an outline of the paper obtained by Kyodo News indicates.

The South China Sea remains a source of friction with neighboring countries as China claims sovereignty over most of the sea, which is a vital shipping lane and believed to have rich fishing grounds and possibly large oil or natural gas deposits. Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan have overlapping claims.

The outline also says China’s activities are intensifying near the Japan-controlled Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea. China also claims those uninhabited islets, which it calls Diaoyu.

It notes that a Chinese navy ship last month sailed in a contiguous zone just outside the territorial waters around the Senkaku Islands.

And it says the number of times that Japan has scrambled its Air Self-Defense Force fighter jets against Chinese aircraft approaching its airspace is rising sharply.

As for North Korea, the white paper will criticize Pyongyang’s repeated provocative actions, including its test in January of a nuclear device. North Korea has conducted four nuclear tests in defiance of U.N. Security Council resolutions.

Referring to Pyongyang’s launch in February of a long-range rocket that utilized banned ballistic missile technology, the white paper will assert that North Korea has obtained the technology to bring mid — and long-range ballistic missiles to the stage of practical use, and is keen to pursue more advanced missile development, the outline indicates.

The outline restates that there is a possibility that North Korea may have succeeded in miniaturizing nuclear weapons for warheads.

In the wake of the terrorist attack on a restaurant in the Bangladesh capital of Dhaka earlier this month, in which 20 people, including seven Japanese, were killed, the outline says the threat of terrorism is spreading globally and Japan must face this as its own challenge.

The white paper is also expected to devote a new chapter to the country’s new security legislation, which came into effect in March.

It enables Japan to exercise the right to collective self-defense, or come to the aid of friendly nations under attack even if Japan itself is not attacked.