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Japan Defense White Paper Warns of ‘Greatest Trial’ Since WWII

Reuters file photo
Smoke rises after a Russian missile strike in Kyiv on May 18.

The international community is facing its “greatest trial” since the end of World War II, and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has reinforced the necessity of Japan possessing powerful deterrence, the government said in its defense white paper released Friday.

The annual report was approved by the Cabinet on Friday morning.

The 2023 white paper said the international community has “entered a new era of crisis” as a result of Russia’s military actions in Ukraine. Lessons learned from this invasion highlight the importance of effective deterrence, and the white paper detailed plans for the “fundamental reinforcement” of Japan’s defense capabilities.

The report said fighting in Ukraine could drag on for an extended period because Russia was capable of producing ammunition and equipment of a technological standard equivalent to that produced during the Soviet era, despite being under extensive economic sanctions. After explaining that Ukraine did not possess “sufficient capabilities to deter Russia,” the white paper underlined that it is necessary to possess deterrence capability that makes other nations “realize the difficulty of making unilateral changes to the status quo by force.”

The report contained a new section detailing the content of three security-related documents that were revised in December, including the National Security Strategy. Describing a missile attack on Japan as a real threat, the report stated that fully responding to such an attack through the existing missile defense network alone is becoming increasingly difficult. Accordingly, the white paper urged greater understanding for Japan’s possession of counterstrike capabilities.

The white paper also features a section on information warfare, such as measures to combat the spread of disinformation, and spells out a plan under which the entire Defense Ministry will strengthen measures to deal with this issue.

The report states that Russian military capabilities in the Far East are being depleted since they have been drawn away for combat in Ukraine. However, the white paper expressed concern that Moscow is continuing military activities in the northern territories and elsewhere.

The white paper indicated the military balance between China and Taiwan was rapidly changing in a direction advantageous to the Chinese side, and stated that “concern” was rapidly growing over this issue.

The report criticized North Korea for escalating its provocative actions in a manner that evoked an increasingly warlike situation, and mentioned that Pyongyang is “pursuing the implementation” of long-range cruise missiles with the intention of mounting nuclear warheads on them.

Following the phrasing used in the National Security Strategy, the white paper described Russia as a “strong security concern,” China’s activities as “unprecedented” and the “greatest strategic challenge,” and North Korea as posing an “even more grave and imminent threat to Japan’s national security than ever before.”