Japan Reviews Military Policy, Focus Shifts to China
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 maritime border with China. Japan’s new national defence policy has acquired importance in the wake of recent rise of tensions between China and Japan when a Chinese trawler hit a Japanese petrol boars near disputed chain coral islands on 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 on which it has ownership claim have rising concerns. The US is also worried with China’s military build-up as it feels China is threatening the US’ interests in South Asia and East Asia regions. The secretary of state for the US Ms Hillary Clinton expressed openly her concerns that China was ascertaining its domination in the region.
Recently, the US conducted military drill with South Korea in Yellow Sea after North Korea fired artillery shells on a disputed South Korea’s island near maritime border. Though, the US said the military drills were part of regular exercises, its main aim was to issue veiled warning to Chinese military, which has been ascertaining its position in the region. The US accused China for not reigning in North Korea’s behaviour during recent tensions in Korean peninsula. It has 50,000 troops stationed in a Japanese island Okinawa and 28,500 troops in South Korea.
Japanese cabinet approved the National Defence Programme Guidelines as part of defence review that would shape its defence policies for next ten years according to BBC News. Japan wants to change placement of its forces in line with shifting balance of power in the region. Japan previously concentrated its forces in northern region of the country to counter Soviet Union, which occupied 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 Southern side close to China. Japan decided to raise forces in Southern region in order to balance the growing assertiveness of Chinese military in East China and South China seas.
Japan also wants to shift its resources from army to air and naval forces. As per the review, Japan will increase submarine fleet from 16 to 22 and upgrade fighter jets while reducing army tanks substantially. In response to a 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, defence review paper stated that the burden on communities hosting US bases had to be reduced, rising analysts’ eyebrows. The present ruling party, Democratic Party of Japan, under the leadership of Yukio Hatoyama came to power defeating 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 after taking Japanese premiership, on the same reason.
The reference in the defence review to the US bases 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 the 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 arena.
Japanese defence review also reveals Japan’s intentions to draw its own path of dominance as the world is appearing to evolve into a multipolar world replacing the unipolar world, after the worst financial crisis as well as the US’ weakening position in Afghanistan. It may be recalled that a few days back sixteen intelligence agencies have reported that the US had meagre chances of winning war in Afghanistan even as the military gave an optimistic picture of winning the war.