New security strategy must underline threat posed by Beijing

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Ryoichi Oriki, former SDF Chief of Staff, Joint Staff

Japan will continue to face challenges this year, from issues such as the pandemic to foreign affairs and the economy. This is the seventh installment of a series in which authoritative figures in various fields share their thoughts on such topics. The following text was excerpted from remarks by former SDF Chief of Staff, Joint Staff Ryoichi Oriki in a recent interview with The Yomiuri Shimbun.

The strategic rivalry between the United States and China will become more intense this year. In the United States, mid-term elections are slated to be held, and Japan and China will mark the 50th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic relations between the two countries. It will be important for Japan to squarely face the harsh reality of the national security environment and clarify its position.

I established an eight-member study group comprising former senior officials of the Ground, Maritime, and Air Self-Defense Forces — including former Administrative Vice-Minister of Defense Tetsuro Kuroe — and we have put together policy proposals for the National Security Strategy, which is slated to be revised at the end of this year.

Since the beginning of the 2000s, China has intensified its strategy dubbed the “Three Warfares” — public opinion, psychological and legal — in addition to increasing its military power, and it has repeatedly entered Japan’s territorial waters near the Senkaku Islands [in Ishigaki, Okinawa Prefecture.]

We must swiftly respond to attempts to change the status quo.

As far as China is concerned, a new security strategy must go beyond merely mentioning “strong national security concerns,” as stated in such documents as previous defense white papers, and at least recognize that Beijing is a “potential threat.”


The Japan-U.S. alliance has become ever more important. What counts most is Japan’s ability to act independently. We need to think and prepare ourselves from the perspective of protecting our country ourselves.

As the United States is paying attention not only to China but also to such regions as the Middle East, Japan’s Self-Defense Forces should assume a more active role in the East China Sea and waters near the Japan Sea.

Having the ability to counterattack, including the ability to attack enemy bases, will reinforce deterrence. Japan will not have the capability unless it builds a comprehensive system that includes not only missiles but also improved intelligence-gathering using satellites. Japan must hold talks regarding such issues with the United States, including a review of the role-sharing between the two countries.

Every year, China builds up its intermediate-range nuclear arsenal, whose range includes Japan, but the United States, which provides Japan with its nuclear umbrella, does not have any countermeasures to dealing with such capabilities.

A frank discussion is needed on how to effectively deal with the threat of China’s nuclear arsenal and on the Three Non-Nuclear Principles of not possessing, not producing and not permitting the introduction of nuclear weapons.

In addition to China, South Korea and countries in Southeast Asia have been increasing their military capabilities. If Japan continues to take a cautious stance regarding defense spending, it might become a factor in the destabilization of the region. To inject more resources into new areas such as space, and into the defense of the Nansei Islands, Japan should aim at allocating a defense budget equivalent to around 2% of its gross domestic product.

Homemade tech

The government has been discussing the establishment of legislation to promote economic security, but it has failed to consider how to position the defense industry and manufacturing base in the context of economic security.

Technologies possessed by the defense industry are military resources but if they are not further developed, security risks could emerge. Japan must not become dependent on foreign countries for all its equipment.

Japan risks ending up with the technological equivalent of bamboo spears if it relies solely on domestic products, some of which lag behind those of other countries.

We should consider improving the nation’s defense capabilities by determining what can be made domestically while actively engaging in joint production and joint development with other countries.

Having technology that other countries lack would be an ace in the hand for Japan. Other countries would have no choice but to depend on us, enabling Japan to gain control of supply chains.

It will be important, in terms of national security, to know where such technologies are located in Japan and to utilize export controls and foreign investment restrictions to prevent them from leaking out of the country.

There is a possibility that artificial intelligence, drones and unmanned submarines, among other innovations, will drastically change warfare, making it essential for Japan to make progress in the development of such technologies.

The National Security Strategy must become a more comprehensive strategy that includes efforts to bolster economic security.

The interview was conducted by Yomiuri Shimbun Staff Writer Hirotaka Kuriyama.


Hailing from Kumamoto Prefecture, Ryoichi Oriki joined the Ground Self-Defense Force after graduating from the National Defense Academy in 1972. He was the highest-ranking officer in the SDF from March 2009 to January 2012, when he served as chief of staff, joint staff. He supervised the disaster response in quake-affected areas following the Great East Japan Earthquake and was a member of the expert panel established when the National Security Strategy was formulated in 2013.