Japan gets tough with new defense policy
By Kosuke Takahashi
TOKYO - Faced with increasingly territorial belligerence from China and
warmongering from North Korea, Japan has decided to adopt a new defense policy
that aims to bolster more proactive, flexible and quick responses in the sea,
land and air during the next decade - a big departure from a previous passive
and pacifist defense posture.
The Japanese government on December 17 announced the new defense policy,
officially called the National Defense Program Guidelines (NDPG), that will
define the country's basic security policy for the next 10 years. The
guidelines have drawn close attention from the international community, as they
are the first defense policy that the center-left Democratic Party of Japan
(DPJ) has formulated since ousting the pro-US Liberal Democratic Party (LDP)
This posture has also captured public attention because it was mapped out amid
rising regional tensions, triggered by territorial disputes between China and
Japan, the sinking of a South Korean warship in March and North Korea's
bombardment of a South Korean island in November.
The new policy includes a proactive concept called the "Dynamic Defense Force"
that aims to "increase the credibility of Japan's deterrent capability by
promoting timely and active operations." This supersedes the previous, passive
"Basic Defense Force Concept", built around the idea of "static deterrence".
The guidelines see military modernization by China and its insufficient
transparency as a "concern for the regional and global community." They also
point to North Korea's nuclear and missile development programs as "immediate
and grave destabilizing factors for regional security."
"For Japan, North Korea is an immediate threat," said Hideshi Takesada,
professor and executive director at the National Institute for Defense Studies
in Tokyo. "Meanwhile, China is Japan's medium to long-term concern, as it is
boosting its submarine forces and anti-satellite weapons programs. China also
has outer-space capacity to attack a US carrier by using a GPS (Global
Departure from the Cold War-era posture
The new defense policy calls for a reorganization of Japanese troops. While
reducing Cold War-era equipment and organizations, especially Japan Ground
Self-Defense Force (JGSDF) personnel in Hokkaido prefecture, the northernmost
part of Japan facing Russia, it stresses the necessity to boost security around
the Nansei Islands in Okinawa prefecture in the country's south, and in the
East China Sea near China and Taiwan, a move that is apparently aimed at
countering China's growing naval power. The JGSDF will also deploy coastal
monitoring troops in some of the Nansei Islands, the nation's remotest area.
The quota for JGSDF personnel was reduced to 154,000 in 10 years from the
current 155,000, the new NDPG showed.
As part of Japan's efforts to step up vigilance in the sea around Japan, The
Japanese Ministry of Defense (MoD) decided to increase the Japan Maritime
Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) submarine fleet to 22 from the current 16 by
extending the working life of existing submarines. It will also increase the
number of its Aegis-equipped destroyers, which carry the US/Japanese-developed
Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) anti-ballistic-missile system, to six from the
current four. Specifically, a ministry official said it would upgrade JDS Atago
(DDG-177) and JS Ashigara (DDG-178).
As for air defense, the Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) Naha Base in
Okinawa will add one more JASDF Tactical Fighter Squadron for a total of two.
The JASDF will also boost its deployment of Patriot Advanced Capability-3
interceptor missiles to six air-defense groups across Japan from the current
three, to counter the threat of North Korean and Chinese ballistic missiles,
and enhance the performance of Aegis destroyers.
The national defense budget for the next five years will be around 23.49
trillion yen (US$279 billion), down by 750 billion yen from fiscal 2005-2009
due to Japanís increasing budget deficit.
The new NDPG also calls for Japan to strengthen its defense cooperation with
those countries with which it shares democratic values, like South Korea,
Australia and India, in addition to its key ally, the United States, with whom
it will also work to counter cyber attacks.
The defense guidelines said Japan "will study measures to follow the
international trend of defense equipment," but did not clearly mention a review
of Japan's longstanding arms-export ban due to protests by opposition
lawmakers, whose support the government and ruling bloc cannot afford to lose
as it seeks to pass key bills for fiscal 2011. But the door is still open for a
possible future lifting of the export ban, a politically sensitive issue given
Tokyo's pacifist constitution.
The guidelines also detailed a plan to create a Japanese version of the US
National Security Council, aimed at dealing more effectively with diplomatic
and security policies, without any sectionalism among related ministries.
Beijing has accused Tokyo of making irresponsible remarks in its new defense
guidelines targeting China.
"The fact is that China's development since the reform and opening up has
brought great opportunities for common prosperity to other countries in the
world, including Japan," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said on December
17. "This is widely recognized and the international community will have a fair
opinion on this. A certain individual country has no right to represent the
international community and make irresponsible remarks on China's development."
Singaporean Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew said that Japanese naval power was
stronger than Chinaís, but he saw the tide reversed in 10 years.
"Normally you [Japan] have better ships than they have. But they will build an
aircraft carrier. So in 10 years they will have a bigger fleet than you, so you
have to factor that into your calculations. These are the realities of power,"
he told the Strait Times in late September.