Japan revised security doc to say China poses ‘challenge’ to Asia security

Courtesy of the Japan Coast Guard
A Japan Coast Guard patrol boat, forefront, is seen monitoring a China Coast Guard vessel in waters around the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture.

The government and ruling parties are making adjustments to state in the revised National Security Strategy that China’s hegemonic behavior is a “challenge” to the security of Japan and the Asian region, The Yomiuri Shimbun has learned.

The move is in line with the views of the United States and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which also see Beijing’s conduct as challenging.

Issues surrounding Taiwan also are expected to be mentioned in the document — set to be updated by the end of the year — according to multiple government and ruling party sources.

The National Security Strategy is a basic guideline for foreign and defense policies covering the next decade or so.

The current strategy, compiled in 2013, states that China’s actions are “an issue of concern to the international community including Japan.” A major focus of the revision will be the wording used to describe Japan’s views on China, which has become increasingly oppressive toward neighboring countries since President Xi Jinping came to power.

In the strategy, the government and ruling parties plan to clarify their sense of urgency over China, which is increasingly trying to alter the status quo by force or coercion, such as by repeatedly sending China Coast Guard vessels into Japanese territorial waters around the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture.

Nevertheless, economic ties between Japan and China remain strong. Full-scale political interactions have also resumed, with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida holding bilateral talks with Xi in Bangkok on Thursday on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum — the first bilateral in-person summit for the two countries in three years.

U.S., NATO views

In the U.S. National Security Strategy released in October, U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration states that China “presents America’s most consequential geopolitical challenge.” NATO, too, mentions China as a security challenge in its Strategic Concept, adopted in June.

Consequently, many officials within the government and ruling parties say it is appropriate for Japan, which desires a “constructive and stable relationship” with China, to define that country’s activities as a “challenge,” while deterring Beijing through the Japan-U.S. alliance.

On the issue of Taiwan, which has been coming under increasing Chinese military pressure, Japan will signal in the updated strategy that it will not tolerate the forcible unification of Taiwan with the Chinese mainland by emphasizing the importance of “peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.”

The existing strategy states that Japan will cooperate with Russia “in all areas,” but this view will be drastically revised in light of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. North Korea, meanwhile, which has repeatedly launched ballistic missiles, is expected to remain a “threat” to Japan.

The government plans to finalize the language of the updated strategy as early as early next month based on discussions within the ruling parties.