Japanese defense officials warned the international community is facing its greatest post-war trial and has entered a new era of crisis. At the same time, Tokyo identified China, Russia and North Korea as the countries that pose a threat to Japan, according to the “Defense of Japan 2023” white paper.
The release follows the latest revisions to the national defense strategies that call for Japan’s need to possess a counterattack capability, increased defense spending and a procurement plan and the build-up of military capabilities.
In the white paper’s preface, Japan Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada said that the international community was facing its greatest post-war trial since World War II, and the world has entered a new era of crisis, including Russia’s aggression against Ukraine.
“A permanent member of the United Nations Security Council has shown disregard for international law by launching an aggression against a sovereign country and repeating rhetoric and actions that can be interpreted as threats of nuclear weapons use,” Hamada wrote.
China is rapidly enhancing its military capability both in numbers and quality, including nuclear and missile forces, Hamada added. At the same time, Beijing is amplifying its unilateral changes to the status quo by force and such attempts in the East China Sea and the South China Sea while North Korea is rapidly advancing its nuclear and missile development and repeatedly launching missiles.
The white paper also identified the Taiwan situation as being of concern, noting that China has been increasing its military pressure on Taiwan, including launching nine ballistic missiles in August 4, 2022, five of which landed within Japan’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
“This was perceived as a threat to local residents,” reads the document.
During his press conference, Hamada stated that the Japanese government’s position has always been that the Taiwan situation should be resolved peacefully through dialogue.
Japan prioritizes diplomatic efforts, but at the same time, in order to protect the lives and livelihood of Japanese nationals, it is essential for Japan to be able to defend the country by itself and increase deterrence, he wrote.
“In other words, we need to make the opponent think that attacking Japan will not achieve its goals,” Hamada wrote.
Three strategic documents issued in December articulated how Japan was to be able to defend itself on its own along with increasing its deterrence capability. Based on the papers, the ministry will focus on two priorities; maximizing effective use of current equipment by improving operational rates, securing sufficient munition and accelerating investments in improving the resiliency of major defense facilities and strengthening the core areas of future defense capabilities, including stand-off defense capabilities that can be utilized as counterstrike capabilities and unmanned assets.
No matter how much advanced equipment the MOD/Self-Defense Forces (SDF) procure, “our defense capability cannot be demonstrated without personnel to operate them. The core element of defense capability is SDF personnel. We will speed up our efforts to improve their lives, work environments and treatment,” Hamada wrote.
The Japanese defense chief also wrote that in recent years, diplomatic efforts have also gained importance for defense. Hamada held discussions with a number of his counterparts, and Japan plans to build on these discussions to pursue various cooperative efforts in defense, including the joint development of the next-generation fighter aircraft by Japan, the United Kingdom and Italy.
The Defense of Japan 2023 white paper also included a special feature titled “An Era of Upheavals: 10 Years of Change.” The Kishida administration’s plans to increase defense and deterrence capabilities raised some concerns among the Japanese public, ranging from the fiscal cost of implementation and whether the possession of counterattack capabilities violate Japan’s policy of conducting only defensive military actions. Some residents also reaised concerns that the plan to increase military presence, along with stationing radars and weapon systems in the southwest islands of Japan, will turn their homes into a battlefield due to the military presence.
The analysis of the last decade points out the increased current military capabilities and activities of China, Russia and North Korea since 2012.
South Korea protested the white paper’s inclusion of a map that called the South Korean-administered Dokdo Islets by its Japanese name. Japan claims the islands. South Korea also protested the white paper’s reference to the islets as one of Japan’s unresolved territorial issues.
The white paper also included a conceptual image of the two Aegis System Equipped Vessel (ASEV) destroyers that Japan plans to have in service by 2028.
The new image shows the ASEV as an evolved version of the Maya-class destroyers. Japan currently has eight Aegis-equipped destroyers, comprising of four Kongo-class, two Atago-class and two Maya-class destroyers, whose primary task is the Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) mission.
The two ASEVs are to replace the canceled Aegis Ashore systems and also to free up the current eight Aegis destroyers for other taskings. New missions could include serving as escorts for the two Izumo-class destroyer carriers once they complete conversions to fully operating the F-35 Lighting II fighters to deploy as Carrier Strike Group (CSG).
The exact tonnage has not been disclosed but is expected to be higher than the 10,250 tons full load of the Maya class given the ASEVs are to carry a larger number of vertical launch missile cells along with having a larger crew and size to facilitate a longer sea deployment period.
Chinese and Russian naval vessels are set to hold a third joint maritime patrol in the western and northern waters of the Pacific Ocean, according to a Wednesday statement from China’s Ministry of National Defense.
“This operation does not target any third party, and has nothing to do with the current international and regional situation,” reads the statement.
The Chinese ships taking part in the patrol are likely the five-ship People’s Liberation Army Surface Action Group (SAG), consisting of destroyers CNS Guiyang (119) and CNS Qiqihar (121), frigates CNS Zaozhuang (542) and CNS Rizhao (598) and fleet oiler CNS Taihu (889), which departed Vladivostok on Thursday following a port visit there.
The PLAN ships had earlier conducted the Chinese-Russian “Northern Interaction 2023” exercise from July 20-23 in the Sea of Japan with and a Russian Navy SAG made up of destroyers RFS Admiral Panteleyev (548) and RFS Admiral Tributs (564) and corvettes RFS Gremyashchiy (337) and RFS Hero of the Russian Federation Aldar Tsydenzhapov (339).