China-Russia military cooperation a cause for wariness

China and Russia have increased their military activities, and North Korea has repeatedly launched missiles. In light of the growing threat, Japan must steadily enhance its deterrence capabilities.

The 2022 edition of the defense white paper has been released. It analyzes the security environment around Japan, aiming to demonstrate the direction of defense policy.

The white paper condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as a “serious violation of international law and the U.N. Charter.” Referring to the possibility of an isolated Russia deepening military cooperation with China, it emphasized that the situations “warrant concern and must continue to be closely monitored.”

Last autumn, a group of 10 naval vessels from China and Russia sailed around Japan for exercises. In May this year, six bombers from both countries jointly flew around Japan. Some observers view these not as mere demonstrations but rather moves with actual warfare in mind.

The Self-Defense Forces need to take all possible precautions in their surveillance activities while sharing plans with the United States and continuing to train with U.S. forces.

Another feature of this year’s white paper is a substantial expansion of the description of the situation in Taiwan. In an analysis from the Taiwan side, the report presents a scenario in which China first launches “cognitive warfare” by spreading disinformation to create panic among the people, after which Chinese troops land and take control of the island.

If a Taiwan contingency were to occur, it could possibly affect to the Nansei Islands.

China Coast Guard vessels have already repeatedly intruded into Japan’s territorial waters around the Senkaku Islands. There have also been notable cases of Chinese naval vessels navigating in these waters.

It is obvious that China, which claims territorial rights to the Senkaku Islands, is trying to make it a fait accompli. The Japan Coast Guard and the Self-Defense Forces should strengthen their cooperation so that they can respond to all possible situations.

The white paper notes that “all options are being considered as we formulate a new national security strategy” for measures to deal with new types of missiles developed by China, Russia and North Korea. In addition to improving conventional interception capabilities, the need to possess counterattack capabilities is taken as a given.

The government plans to purchase “standoff missiles” from the United States and other countries that can be launched from outside the range of an enemy. It is also working on the development of improved domestically produced surface-to-ship guided missiles with a much longer range. A system that can reliably operate these missiles must be established.

Enhancing the defense technology foundation is another important theme. In recent years, Japan has continued to purchase state-of-the-art defense equipment from the United States under the framework of its Foreign Military Sales (FMS) security assistance program. On the other hand, equipment procured domestically has been on the decline.

If the nation’s defense industry tapers off, the number of engineers will dry up, making it impossible to procure and repair equipment. Also, from the viewpoint of fostering the domestic industry, it is important to secure an adequate budget for research and development.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 23, 2022)