Japan Doubles Down on Growing Threat From China and Russia

Japan Doubles Down on Growing Threat From China and Russia
Japan's Maritime Self-Defense Force (MSDF) escort ship Kurama sails through smoke during a fleet review off Sagami Bay, Kanagawa prefecture, on Oct. 18, 2015. Thirty-six MSDF vessels and navy ships from Australia, India, France, South Korea and the United States participated in the fleet review. (Toru Yamanaka/AFP via Getty Images)
Antonio Graceffo

Citing the threat from communist China and Russia, Japan’s 2023 military budget is the biggest since World War II.

“China continues to unilaterally change or attempt to change the status quo by coercion in the East China Sea and South China Sea,” reads Japan’s 2022 defense white paper. The document outlines the scope of the threat posed by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), including its willingness to use force to capture Taiwan, its deepening relationship with Russia, and “joint navigations and flights being conducted in the areas surrounding Japan by both Chinese and Russian vessels and aircraft.”
On Nov. 11, 2022, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told the East Asia Summit in Cambodia that the Chinese regime is continuously and increasingly threatening Japan’s sovereignty in the East China Sea while escalating regional tensions, particularly in the South China Sea. He also expressed his concern for the Uyghurs in China’s Xinjiang region. The repression of Uyghurs has been officially called a genocide by the U.S. Department of State. At the same meeting, U.S. President Joe Biden stressed the importance of maintaining freedom of navigation through the Taiwan Strait.
Tokyo has identified the Chinese People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) military exercises in the sea and airspace near Taiwan as a threat to Japan’s national security. Given the proximity of the two countries, it is logical for Tokyo to feel this way. Japan’s Yonaguni island of Okinawa prefecture lies only 67 miles from Taiwan. Last year, after then-U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taipei, the PLA responded with large-scale military drills, threatening Taiwan. Beijing also upped the ante by launching missiles into Japan’s exclusive economic zone. Similarly, if the Chinese regime invaded Taiwan, it is almost certain that it would violate Japan’s sea and airspace. For this reason, Japan’s 2021 defense white paper linked Japan’s national security to that of Taiwan.
Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida attends a press conference in Tokyo on Dec.16, 2022. (David Mareuil/Pool/AFP via Getty Images)
Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida attends a press conference in Tokyo on Dec.16, 2022. (David Mareuil/Pool/AFP via Getty Images)
Along with the threat posed by China’s communist regime, Kishida cited the frequent North Korean missile tests, calling them a “clear and serious challenge.”
A further area of concern for Japan is a potential conflict with Russia. The World War II peace treaty between Japan and Russia has never been signed because of an ongoing dispute over four islands. In November last year, Moscow blamed Tokyo for escalating tensions by imposing sanctions on Russia for the Ukraine invasion. Consequently, Russia canceled peace talks between the two countries. In early December, the Kremlin deployed mobile coastal defense missile systems to the disputed islands. In the face of repeated intrusions into Japanese waters by Russian and Chinese vessels, the 2022 white paper referenced the Ukraine war, stating that a similar war could break out in East Asia. Consequently, Japan feels the need to remilitarize.
On Dec. 16, 2022, Kishida’s government approved three national security plans: the National Security Strategy, the National Defense Strategy, and the Defense Force Buildup Plan. Japan aims to improve its competency in multi-domain battles, as well as enhance its counterattack capability, such as being able to destroy an enemy’s missile bases. To this end, Japan will begin deploying U.S.-made long-range Tomahawk cruise missiles in 2026.
Japan will now increase its defense spending to 2 percent of GDP or $7.3 billion. Currently, the five countries with the highest defense spending are the United States, China, India, the United Kingdom, and Russia. The new Japanese defense budget would jump them up to third place. As part of a five-year military buildup, the Japan Self-Defense Forces will upgrade its Type-12 surface-to-surface missile, develop its F-X fighter, increase its ammunition stockpile, fund its cyber technology, and improve the Japanese Coast Guard.
Japan is also in the process of building the world’s largest warships, two 20,000-ton super destroyers. In addition to the increased military spending and identifying a threat to Taiwan as a Japanese national security concern, the 2022 defense white paper calls for Japan to increase its military cooperation with the United States.
A spokesperson for China’s Ministry of National Defense, Wu Qian, claimed that Japan’s 2022 defense white paper is guilty of “exaggerating the so-called China threat.” On Dec. 22, 2022, Russian state-owned news agency TASS reported that Moscow strongly condemns Japan’s militarization, stating that it would “inevitably provoke new security challenges and lead to increased tensions in the Asia-Pacific region.”
Japan’s military buildup sends a clear message to the CCP and Russia that Tokyo does not welcome their plans for military expansion.
Views expressed in this article are opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.
Antonio Graceffo, PhD, is a China economic analyst who has spent more than 20 years in Asia. Mr. Graceffo is a graduate of the Shanghai University of Sport, holds a China-MBA from Shanghai Jiaotong University, and currently studies national defense at American Military University. He is the author of “Beyond the Belt and Road: China’s Global Economic Expansion” (2019).
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