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