Japan Must Enhance Deterrence through Cooperation with U.S., S. Korea

Defense spending will increase significantly, and new defense equipment will be deployed. It is important to assess changes in the security environment and establish a system that can allow Japan to demonstrate its capabilities.

The government has released its Defense White Paper for 2023. Based on three documents — including the new National Security Strategy that was decided at the end of last year — the paper analyzes the regional situation and lays out the nation’s direction for strengthening its defense capabilities.

The white paper notes that North Korea is “pursuing the implementation of long-range cruise missiles with the intention of mounting them with tactical nuclear weapons.”

Pyongyang has launched ballistic missiles 12 times this year, including intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). Strengthening defense cooperation between Tokyo, Washington and Seoul is essential to deal with the growing threat.

The white paper particularly emphasizes the importance of cooperation between the defense authorities of Japan and South Korea.

Last year’s edition of the white paper was notable for referencing pending issues between the countries, including the fact that South Korea unilaterally notified Japan of its intention to terminate the Japan-South Korea General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA), under which classified information is shared between the two nations.

In contrast, this year’s white paper — reflecting the significant improvement in Japan-South Korea relations following a March summit meeting — promotes closer communication between the two defense authorities. It also notes the normalization of the GSOMIA.

Japan, the United States and South Korea have agreed to establish by year-end a real-time information-exchange mechanism on North Korean missiles. A seamless defense framework should be created to improve deterrence.

The white paper also clearly states that counterstrike capabilities, including the targeting of an enemy’s missile-launching sites, will be exercised as a minimum necessary self-defense measure, based on the “three new conditions for ‘use of force.’”

For that purpose, the government will introduce U.S.-made Tomahawk cruise missiles and extend the ranges of domestically produced surface-to-ship guided projectiles.

In addition to improving defense materiel, the government must also focus on training personnel to operate such equipment.

Regarding the Taiwan situation, the white paper expresses deep concerns that the overall military balance between China and Taiwan is tilting in China’s favor.

Unilateral changes to the status quo by force are wholly unacceptable. The Self-Defense Forces should take all possible measures to monitor the situation.

The white paper states that cyber-attacks are a real threat, specifically noting that China, Russia and North Korea are enhancing such capabilities through specialized units. The paper also touches upon the possibility of artificial intelligence being used for cyber-attacks and the dissemination of disinformation.

The government intends to introduce active cyber defense, which would involve infiltrating and neutralizing foes’ computer servers to stave off serious cyber-attacks. It is crucial to hasten legislation to this end.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 30, 2023)