The Guardian January 23, 2002


Japan's dangerous military superpower plans

Japan dramatically restructured its security and defence strategies in 
2001 sending a strong signal that it intends to be a military 
superpower.

The height of the restructuring occurred in late October 2001 when the 
Upper House of Japan's Parliament approved anti-terrorism legislation 
authorising its military to support the US-led "war on terrorism". By 
ignoring many provisions in its former security and defence policies Japan 
paved the way to dispatch troops overseas.

In line with the new legislation, Japan's Self-Defence Forces (SDF) can 
provide military support, such as escorts, guards, intelligence and 
logistics, but not direct combat services in the anti-terrorism war. 
Restraints on the SDF's carrying and use of weapons were also significantly 
relaxed. 

Furthermore, Japan's anti-terrorism law sheds a previous measure requiring 
the government to seek approval from the Parliament before dispatching 
troops. Instead, it must seek post-deployment approval within 20 days after 
the beginning of the operation.

The anti-terrorism law also expands the geographical area in which Japanese 
troops can be sent to, in theory, anywhere in the world. Japan's 
legislation on emergencies covers "areas surrounding Japan" and confines 
emergency activities to the west Pacific Ocean.

After the outbreak of the war in Afghanistan, Japan deployed sophisticated 
warships to escort US aircraft carriers to the Arabian Sea and Persian 
Gulf. Today, six Japanese warships remain in those waters.

Japan is also amending its defence outline, which lays down basic 
principles regarding the scope of its defence needs. The original outline 
was drawn up in 1976. 

With changes in international circumstances and the Asia-Pacific security 
environment in the past few years, Japan quickened the pace on its path to 
becoming a political and military giant.

Rapid build-up

It moved up its previous 2005 target date for establishing a new defence 
outline to 2003. A special group led by Japan's Defence Agency has been 
established to prepare for that action.

The new defence outline is expected to reflect the following trends in 
Japan's security and defence strategy.

China, Korea alert

Japan will re deploy its military force and divert its focus to the 
southwest areas of the nation, keeping China and the Democratic People's 
Republic of Korea alert.

Japan's year 2000 white paper on defence claimed that the Chinese 
mainland's medium-range ballistic missile is capable of hitting Taiwan 
Province and Japan. The 2001 white paper devoted more space to China's 
military development and exaggerated the size of China's military 
capability. It also compared the military capability of the Chinese 
mainland with that of Taiwan.

This indicates that Japan views China as a major strategic target of 
defence, and it is ready to interfere militarily in the Taiwan Straits 
region.

Japan's current defence strategy emphasises the SDF's ability to cope with 
emergencies. New institutions charged with the responsibility for handling 
military emergencies have been set up.

In line with new regulations passed by the Parliament in December, in 
emergencies, including attacks by armed guerrillas or attacks using 
nuclear, biological and chemical weapons, Japan's Prime Minister can 
independently, before the cabinet makes any decision, order that an attack 
be launched.

Japan's local governments and police force will be under the direct command 
of the Prime Minister, thus greatly expanding his power.

The year 2001 also witnessed Japan's support for the US National Missile 
Defence (NMD) system as well as the Theatre Missile Defence (TMD) system.

Japan reached agreement with the United States in 1998 to jointly develop 
the TMD system. In 1999, efforts at joint technological research began, 
which will continue for five to six years and cost 20-30 billion yen 
(US$153-230 million). From 2006, the deployment of the system will begin.

In addition to active participation in the US-led TMD programme, Japan, for 
the first time, declared that it planned to develop its own national 
missile defence system.

Japan has formed its own intelligence collection network, and the nation's 
involvement in TMD research will advance its ability to develop its own 
missile defence system.

If Japan succeeds in developing its own missile defence system, significant 
impacts on the security environment in the Asia-Pacific region can be 
expected.

Japan's defence budget hit a record high in 2001 of 4.9 trillion yen (US$45 
billion), a 0.4 per cent growth over 2000.

In December 2000, Japan's cabinet approved a 25 trillion yen (US$227 
billion) medium-range defence buildup programme, which aimed to add 
advanced equipment to its maritime and air forces. The five-year defence 
plan was established in fiscal 2001.

Under the programme, the Maritime Self-Defence Force (MSDF) will build 
13,500-ton class helicopter-carrying destroyers and the new vessels are 
likely to more than double the size of previous destroyers. MSDF officials 
do not rule out the possibility of remodeling the ships to serve as 
conventional aircraft carriers. Four aerial refueling tankers will be 
introduced, which will extend the flight range of SDF aircraft.

The programme also includes the purchase of two additional Aegis-equipped 
destroyers, as well as domestic development of successors to the P-3C 
patrol aircraft.

In the past few years, Japan's SDF has launched several large-scale 
military exercises in the southwest Pacific Ocean. In November 2001, Japan 
conducted its largest-ever joint exercise with the United States.

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China People's Daily, (12/1/02)

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