Japan’s defense white paper focuses on increasing threat posed by China

China, building up its military capabilities at a fast pace, has shown its stance of not hesitating to “reunify” Taiwan by force. It is important for Japan to strengthen its readiness for contingencies in cooperation with the United States.

The 2021 defense white paper has been released. The most salient feature of this year’s annual report was that it focused on the growing confrontation between the United States and China.

For the first time, the annual defense white paper clearly stated that the stability of the situation surrounding Taiwan is important for Japan’s security, mentioning the possibility of China taking military action. China’s military capabilities, intentions and actual behavior are all factors indicating the danger.

It must be said that China’s coercive activities in the East China Sea and the South China Sea against the backdrop of its military buildup show that the threat posed by China is becoming a reality.

In his speech at a ceremony to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Chinese Communist Party, Chinese President Xi Jinping made clear his strong resolve for the “reunification” of Taiwan with mainland China, saying that it is a “historic mission” of his party. The Chinese military is stepping up its military activities for that purpose, through such measures as sending its fighter jets into the airspace around Taiwan.

Japan and the United States need to strengthen their military preparations to prevent China from wrongly thinking that an invasion of Taiwan is possible.

The enactment of security-related laws has allowed Japan to exercise its right to collective self-defense in a limited manner. Japan and the United States should conduct specific studies on such issues as how to actually deal with the situation surrounding Taiwan and how Japan-U.S. joint operations should be carried out.

In waters around the Senkaku Islands, Chinese coast guard vessels came to regularly sail in Japan’s contiguous zone, and have repeatedly entered Japanese territorial waters for more than 24 hours at a time. The white paper emphasized that such activities constitute “a violation of international law.”

China’s unilateral attempts to change the status quo against the background of its power are unacceptable. It is essential for the Japan Coast Guard and the Self-Defense Forces to work together more closely to deal with such behavior by China.

If China were to exercise its military power in the Taiwan Strait, the East China Sea and the South China Sea, it would also seriously damage China’s own national interests.

It is important for Japan to send a clear message to China and urge the country to exercise self-restraint. Japan must strive to maintain international order based on the rule of law in cooperation with the international community.

Turning to North Korea, the white paper regarded it as a “serious and imminent threat,” saying that Pyongyang is believed to already possess the capability for a nuclear attack on Japan.

It is hoped that the Japanese government will draw up a new policy to improve its ability to intercept missiles, with in mind possessing the ability to attack enemy bases.

The white paper predicted that competition between the United States and China over advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence would further intensify. Japan, too, should promote the research and development of defense equipment while preventing the outflow of important technologies overseas.

— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on July 14, 2021.