Japan revealed its intentions to make substantial changes to its defence policies on the pretext of China’s increasing military might and North Korea’s nuclear weapons.
Japan has a maritime border with China. Japan’s new national defence policy has acquired additional importance in the wake of the recent rise in tension between China and Japan, when a Chinese trawler hit a Japanese petrol boat near a disputed chain of coral islands to which both countries have ownership claims.
China has been strengthening its military, utilising its trade surplus and foreign currency reserves, due to which its neighbours – such as India, with which it has border disputes, Japan, with which it has disputes on ownership over coral islands in South China Sea, and Taiwan, with which it has ownership claims, have rising concerns.
The USA is also worried about China’s military build-up as it feels China is threatening its interests in the South Asia and East Asia regions. The secretary of state for the US, Ms Hillary Clinton, expressed openly her concerns that China was asserting its domination in the region.
Recently, the US conducted military drills with South Korea in the Yellow Sea after North Korea fired artillery shells on a disputed South Korean island near the maritime border. Though the US said the military drills were part of regular exercises, its main aim was to issue a veiled warning to the Chinese military, which has been determining its position in the region. The US accused China of not reining in North Korea’s behaviour during the recent tensions in the Korean peninsula. It has 50,000 troops stationed on the Japanese island of Okinawa and 28,500 troops in South Korea.
The Japanese cabinet approved the National Defence Programme Guidelines as part of a defence review that would shape its defence policies for the next ten years according to BBC News.
Japan wants to change the placement of its forces in line with the shifting balance of power in the region.
Japan previously concentrated its forces in the northern region of the country to counter the Soviet Union, which occupied nearby islands at the end of World War II and on which Japan has claims, calling them “Northern Territories.”
Now it wants to reduce its forces in the North and focus on the Southern side close to China. Japan decided to increase forces in the Southern region in order to balance the growing assertiveness of the Chinese military in East China and the South China seas.
Japan also wants to shift its resources from army to air and naval forces. As per the review, Japan will increase its submarine fleet from 16 to 22 and upgrade its fighter jets, while reducing the number of army tanks substantially.
In response to the recent unveiling of a new uranium enrichment facility by North Korea to US experts, Japan will deploy Patriot interceptor batteries throughout the country and will increase anti-missile warships from four to six.
Interestingly, the defence review paper stated that the burden on communities hosting US bases had to be reduced, raising analysts’ eyebrows. The present ruling party, the Democratic Party of Japan, under the leadership of Yukio Hatoyama, came to power defeating the Liberal Democratic Party for the first time in fifty years on a promise that he would ask the US troops to leave the country. However, he failed to deliver his promise and resigned in June 2010 within nine months of taking the Japanese premiership, for the same reason.
The reference to the US bases in the defence review only reflects the growing discontent among Japanese people over the presence of US troops in the country. Japan may not dare to ask the US to withdraw its troops, particularly in the background of growing Chinese military might. Moreover, at present the US’ military strategy for global dominance seems to be based on integrating Middle East and South Asia as a single entity and acquiring supremacy in that entity as the EU is increasingly keeping away from accepting the US’ dominance in global political and financial arenas.
The Japanese defence review also reveals Japan’s intentions to draw its own path of dominance as the world is appearing to evolve into a more complex multipolar world replacing the previous unipolar world after the worst global financial crisis and the US’ weakening position in Afghanistan. It may be recalled that a few days back sixteen intelligence agencies reported that the US had meagre chances of winning the war in Afghanistan even as the US military gave an optimistic picture of winning the war.