Create deterrence that won’t allow forcible attempts to change status quo

Japan must not allow other countries to mistakenly believe it is possible to change the status quo by force in areas around the nation. An urgent task for Japan is to strengthen its deterrence and response capabilities in ways clearly visible to others.

In his address during the graduation ceremony at the National Defense Academy, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida stressed the government’s policy of drastically strengthening the nation’s defense capabilities in light of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, among other developments. He also expressed his intention to accelerate discussions toward revising the National Security Strategy, the National Defense Program Guidelines and the Medium Term Defense Program.

Since the current strategy was formulated in December 2013, the security environment surrounding Japan has changed drastically.

China, which has become a military power, has been increasing its coercion in the East and South China Seas while also intensifying its confrontation with the United States. North Korea has been extending the range of its ballistic missiles with the aim of acquiring the capability to break through the Japanese and U.S. missile defense systems.

Russia has also been stepping up its military activities in areas around Japan, including the northern territories, and has repeatedly conducted shows of force jointly with China.

Japan’s current National Security Strategy calls for strengthening a “mutually beneficial relationship” with China and expanding cooperation with Russia in energy and other fields. The current situation has left these approaches far behind. The government must present a clear policy that faces reality when the strategy is revised at the end of the year.

Despite the threats becoming more serious, Japan’s defense spending has generally hovered around 1% of its gross domestic product. It has been kept low compared with the levels in Western countries and South Korea.

More European countries have decided to boost their defense capabilities in response to the situation in Ukraine. It is vital for Japan to make even greater efforts to defend itself than before.

It is also important for Japan to collect intelligence on its own, to be capable of prompt responses. It is necessary for the nation to strengthen its vigilance and surveillance capabilities using satellites and unmanned aircraft, areas in which Japan has largely depended on U.S. forces.

It is hoped that the nation will proactively promote the use of emerging and key technologies, such as hypersonics, artificial intelligence and robotics.

The focus of the revision of the National Security Strategy will be whether to possess capabilities to strike enemy bases. It is within the scope of self-defense for Japan to possess capabilities to carry out a counterattack against missile launch sites and other related military facilities in the event of a missile attack on the nation, thus deterring second or further attacks. The possession of such capabilities is allowed under both the Constitution and international law.

It is hoped that Kishida will carefully explain the need to possess such capabilities and the overall picture of Japan’s defense policy through Diet deliberations and press conferences, among other occasions, so that he can gain the public’s understanding.

It is important for the Japanese and U.S. governments to work together at all times to effectively enhance the deterrence capabilities of their alliance. The two governments should fully align their security strategies, while at the same time establishing a joint plan in the event of a contingency and a scheme for operations coordination. Japan and the United States should also ensure the effectiveness of their deterrence through joint exercises and other means.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, March 31, 2022)