Japan warns of rising security threats in annual defence report

These include repercussions from the Ukraine war, Chinese intimidation of Taiwan, and vulnerable technology supply chains. PHOTO: REUTERS

TOKYO (REUTERS, AFP, THE KOREA HERALD/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Japan warned on Friday (July 22) of escalating national security threats, including repercussions from Russia's war with Ukraine, Chinese intimidation of Taiwan, and vulnerable technology supply chains, in its annual defence white paper.

The 500-page report sets out the government's security concerns as it prepares the defence ministry budget request due next month, aiming to build public support for an unprecedented hike in military funding that the ruling party aims to double over the next decade or so.

It also sets the stage for a year-end national security review expected to call for the acquisition of longer-range strike missiles, strengthened space and cyber capabilities, and tighter controls over access to technology.

"The political, economic and military rivalries between nations is clear, and the challenge posed to the international order is a global issue," the white paper said.

The document includes a chapter on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which it says risks sending the message “that an attempt to unilaterally change the status quo by force is acceptable”.

The paper surveys the global security landscape and specific threats to Japan, and says there was concern that Russia could “further enhance and deepen relationships with China”.

In May, Chinese and Russian military jets carried out joint flights near Japan immediately after a meeting of the Quad grouping - comprising Australia, India, Japan and the US - in Tokyo.

The paper describes Moscow's attack on Ukraine as a "serious violation of international law" and raises concerns that Russia's use of force to resolve a dispute established a precedent that threatens the security of neighbouring Taiwan, which China regards as a renegade province, to be reunified, by force if necessary.

It also warns that Moscow may increasingly lean on its nuclear capacity as a deterrent, which could in turn mean an uptick in activity around Japan, where Russian nuclear submarines are routinely active.

Japan has backed sanctions led by the United States and the European Union against Moscow, and has seen increased Russian military activity around its territory.

China said on Friday it firmly opposed the white paper and had sent stern representations to Tokyo."Japan’s new defence white paper makes accusations and smears China’s defence policy, market economic development and legitimate maritime activities,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told a daily news briefing in Beijing.

Mr Wang said the report “exaggerates the so-called China threat” and interferes in China’s internal affairs on Taiwan.

“China has expressed its strong dissatisfaction and resolute opposition to this, and has lodged stern representations to the Japanese side about this,” he said.

Mr Wang noted that the defence white paper mentioned Tokyo’s plan to increase Japan’s defence budget and develop its counterstrike capabilities.

“We urge the Japanese side to immediately stop the erroneous practice of exaggerating security threats in its neighbourhood and finding excuses for its own strong military arsenal,” Mr Wang added.

The defence paper also devotes significant space to Taiwan.

It includes the most detailed overview yet of the security situation in the island and notes “since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Taiwan has been working on further strengthening its self-defence efforts”.

Chinese military planes are increasingly probing Taiwan's air defences, with fighter jets this month crossing the Taiwan Strait's median line, the unofficial buffer between China and Taiwan. Taipei criticised that manoeuvre as a "provocation".

Beijing says it has sovereign rights and jurisdiction over the waterway.

The defence white paper approved by Prime Minister Fumio Kishida's government identifies China, Russia and North Korea as its main security concerns.

Defence Minister Nobuo Kishi last month had described Japan as being on a front line surrounded by nuclear-armed actors.

Most Japanese appear to share government concerns over Japan's deteriorating security environment, with recent opinion polls putting support for higher defence spending at more than 50 per cent.

Mr Kishida's ruling Liberal Democratic Party, which has pledged to double military spending to 2 per cent of GDP, gained seats in national elections for Upper House lawmakers this month.

A 2 per cent target would bring Tokyo in line with a minimum commitment set by North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) members, and given the size of its economy, would make the pacifist nation the world's No. 3 in total defence spending after the United States and China.

The white paper cited comparative OECD estimates of defence spending for Japan and eight other countries, showing Japan at 0.95 per cent of GDP, the United States at 3.12 per cent, South Korea at 2.57 per cent, nearby China at 1.2 per cent, and neighbouring Russia at 2.73 per cent.

Japan's spending as a percentage of GDP is lower than all other Group of Seven nations, as well as Australia and South Korea, it said.

"Spending per capita in South Korea, Britain, France, and Germany is two to three times as much," the document said.

Meanwhile, the South Korean government on Friday strongly condemned Japan’s renewed claims over South Korea’s Dokdo islets in its latest defence white paper, and summoned Japanese diplomats in protest.

“We strongly protest that Japan has renewed its unjust territorial claims to Dokdo in its defence white paper, which is clearly our inherent territory, historically, geographically and internationally, and we urge an immediate retraction of the claims,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Choi Young-sam said in a statement.

“The Japanese government should understand that repeating unlawful claims over Dokdo will not do any good to building future-oriented relations with South Korea.”

In the white paper, Japan claimed its sovereignty over the Dokdo islets, which it calls Takeshima, for the 18th year since 2005.

The Foreign Ministry summoned Mr Makoto Hayashi, Japanese minister for political affairs at the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, to lodge a formal complaint and demand Tokyo to retract the claim.

Korea’s Defence Ministry also summoned defense attache at the embassy Takao Nakashima.

What the white paper says

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine:

“If Russia's aggression is tolerated, it may give the wrong impression that unilateral changes in the status quo are allowed in other regions, including Asia. The international community, including Japan, must not tolerate such aggression.”

China-Russia cooperation:

"For Russia, which is internationally isolated and has worn out its ground forces due to the aggression against Ukraine, the importance of political and military cooperation with China could increase. (It is necessary to) monitor with concern the possibility that China-Russia military collaboration would deepen.”

China and maritime territorial disputes:

“(Beijing) continues to act in an assertive manner, which includes dangerous acts that could cause unintended contingencies.”

Why Taiwan’s security matters:

“Taiwan is located very close to our country's southwestern islands and is only about 110km from Yonaguni Island, our westernmost islet. It is located at the junction of the South China Sea, the Bashi Channel and the East China Sea, facing Japan's important sea lanes. For these reasons, stability in the situation surrounding Taiwan is important not only for the security of Japan, but also for the stability of the international community.”

Rising US-China tensions over Taiwan:

“As the Biden administration, like the Trump administration, makes clear it will support Taiwan in a military sense, it is unlikely China will compromise with the US stance, and there is a possibility that a confrontation between the US and China will emerge.”

Acquiring 'counterstrike capability', as a deterrent to China and North Korea’s increasingly advanced missile systems:

“Japan has been developing a ballistic missile defence system, but we are considering all options as we formulate a new National Security Strategy based on the question of whether we can truly protect the lives and livelihoods of our citizens by simply improving our interceptor capabilities.”

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