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Threats Japan Presses on the Military Budget

"White Paper on Defense" named the main opponents of the country

19 August in Japan was unveiled "White Paper on Defense" for 2018 year. This annual document, issued by the Ministry of Defense of the country, underlies the development of Japan's military strategy for the foreseeable future. It analyzes the situation in the sphere of international security, identifies the main challenges and threats to national security, outlines ways and means to ensure it. The present issue of the White Paper emphasizes the analysis of the regional situation. His conclusions will be the basis for the development of the future defense potential of the country.

Threats Japan Presses on the Military Budget
Photo: Reuters

Valery Kistanov

Head of the Center for Japanese Studies of the Institute of Far Eastern Studies
The main external threats to Japan in the field of security in the book are named by name North Korea and China. It stresses that North Korea's nuclear and missile development represents an "unprecedentedly serious and imminent threat" to Japan's security. In particular, attention is drawn to the fact that last year Pyongyang repeatedly launched missiles and conducted the sixth nuclear test. 

True, this year, North Korea refrained, as the newspaper writes, from military provocations, thereby softening international tension. Nevertheless, according to Japanese military analysts, Pyongyang's policy of abandoning nuclear and missile programs remains questionable even after the US-North Korea summit in June this year. They fear that the relaxation of tensions will be short-lived. The White Paper predicts the possibility of North Korea's resumption of so-called “provocative actions” if the country “arrogantly and erroneously” believes that it has acquired the means of strategic deterrence of the United States.

The book points to the fact that North Korea has deployed hundreds of ballistic missiles within the range of which Japan is located. In this regard, the document did not change its previous assessment of the threat posed by Pyongyang. Therefore, Japanese military experts point out, it is important for Japan to engage in systematic strengthening of its missile defense.

With regard to China, which is rapidly building up its military capabilities, the White Paper says it is a "serious security concern of the international community." Citing the fact that in January this year, a Chinese submarine was found submerged in the area adjacent to the Senkaku Islands, which the PRC disputes with Japan, calling them the Diaoyu Islands, the report points to "a unilateral escalation of China's military activities."

The White Paper's authors are worried that China has recently subordinated its Coast Guard to the Ministry of Defense. They explain this fact by the fact that the country's navy is increasing its capabilities, bearing in mind the potential amphibious operations in the Senkaku Islands and Taiwan. In order to prevent the Nansei Islands, which include the Senkaku, from becoming a "vacuum zone" from a defense point of view, the document says, it is necessary to accelerate the deployment of units tasked with "maintaining vigilance and monitoring the islands." Japan is going to entrust these functions to the rapid deployment airborne brigade being created, the main task of which will be to recapture remote islands from the enemy in the event of their capture by a foreign armed unit.

The Japanese Ministry of Defense is considering the possibility of delivering the said brigade to such remote islands by American-made Osprey vertical takeoff transport aircraft. The Ministry of Defense and the administration of Saga prefecture in southern Japan have already agreed to place these converters at the prefecture airport. True, the military department has yet to convince local fishermen and other categories of the population that are against the deployment of aircraft on the territory of the prefecture in the need for this step in connection with the private accidents of these aircraft.

It should be specially noted that the White Paper draws attention to the vital need to ensure the use of new areas of national security, such as cyberspace and outer space. Otherwise there are risks that there will be a situation in which the communication functions of satellites will be hampered by cyberattacks. This, in turn, will negatively affect the activities of the armed forces of the country.

The military budget outlines for the 31 fiscal year (starting April 2019), released on August 1 in Japan, are intended to put into practice the main provisions of the Defense White Paper for 2018. The budget turned out to be a record in the history of the country. The Department of Defense is demanding a 2,1% increase in defense spending to 5,3 trillion yen ($ 48 billion) from the previous year. If the plans are approved by parliament, it will be the seventh consecutive annual increase in military spending during the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. 

True, the proposed defense budget has yet to be scrutinized by Treasury officials, who may try to cut military spending increases in order to guarantee the necessary funds for Japan's growing health and welfare spending.

The largest proposed spending in the military budget will be for missile defense. Here, in particular, the ministry is requesting 235 billion yen for two new ground-based missile defense systems Aegis Ashore, built by the American concern Lockheed Martin Corp. It should be emphasized that it is these complexes that cause serious concern for Moscow, since, according to Russian experts, they will become part of the US global missile defense system aimed at Russia. This concern was expressed by the Russian side at the Russian-Japanese talks held in Moscow at the end of July in the "two plus two" format with the participation of the foreign and defense ministers of Russia and Japan.

The Japanese military also wants funds to purchase Raytheon Co SM-3 long-range interceptor missiles, designed to intercept enemy missiles in space, and to improve the range and accuracy of its batteries of PAC-3 missiles, which are the last missile defense line.

Other major acquisitions include six Lockheed Martin F-35 stealth fighters worth 91,6 billion yen and two E-2D Hawkeye early warning patrol aircraft built by Northrop Grumman. Japan's Maritime Self-Defense Forces are also seeking funding for the construction of two new destroyers and a submarine, totaling 171 billion yen.

US hardware purchases could help Tokyo ease trade tensions with Washington as US President Donald Trump urges Japan to expand imports of American goods, including military equipment, threatening to impose tariffs on Japanese car imports to reduce trade imbalances with Tokyo. Apparently, it is no coincidence that the budget request of the Japanese Ministry of Defense for the 2018 financial year was published on the eve of a possible meeting between Abe and Trump in September, when the Japanese leader is expected to attend the United Nations General Session in New York.

However, the significant strengthening of Japan's military potential causes great concern in the countries of the region, primarily in the PRC. The Chinese news agency Xinhua, commenting on the latest issue of Japan's Defense White Paper, believes the publication is still heavily exaggerating the security issue of Japan in order to pave the way for strengthening its army and developing Shinzo Abe's cabinet by the end of the year. new "National Defense Program". 

This program defines the development of the country's armed forces for five years. The commentary emphasizes that although the White Paper approved the statement on denuclearization made by Pyongyang at the US-DPRK summit, it also states that the security situation around Japan remains serious and that the DPRK is “an unprecedented and urgent threat for Japan ".

Xinhua criticizes the White Paper for exaggerating the so-called "Chinese threat", calling it irresponsible its statements about conventional military operations of the PRC and its current defense development. On the pages of the book, the agency believes, the goals of patrolling the waters of the Diaoyu Islands by Chinese ships and their legal activities are arbitrarily distorted. It also rejects the assertion that China is allegedly "unilaterally" stepping up military activities near Japan.

As for our country, in the official documents of Japan, including the annual "White Paper on Defense", with the collapse of the USSR the term "Soviet threat" disappeared. It was replaced by the aforementioned term "Chinese threat". Russia is no longer viewed by Tokyo as one of its main military adversaries. And given the generally favorable atmosphere in bilateral relations in recent years, the 2018 White Paper talks about the need for defense exchanges with Russia to prevent unforeseen situations and unnecessary friction. "Through Japanese-Russian defense exchanges, it is important to strengthen relations of trust with Russia, as an important player in ensuring the security of the Asia-Pacific region, as well as an important neighbor of our country," the Book says.

Although Japan is in solidarity with the position of the Big Seven (G7) on the situation with Ukraine, the document says, in order to “avoid unforeseen situations and unnecessary friction, it is important to maintain working contacts, and from this point of view, we are developing exchanges with Russia in a complex ". The Japanese Defense Ministry, according to the White Paper, intends to pay attention to Russia's actions to expand its influence in the Middle East and military activity in the southern Kuriles, which Tokyo considers its "northern territories".

It should be noted that in terms of maintaining the working contacts in the field of security mentioned in the document, the first ever call of Russian warships to the port of Hakodate on the neighboring island of Hokkaido is planned for this year, as well as a visit to Russia by the Chief of the Joint Staff of the Japanese Self-Defense Forces Katsutoshi Kavano is expected. 
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