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By Kris Osborn - Warrior Maven

(Washington, D.C.) A new Japanese defense white paper takes a strong stand against Chinese provocations, territorial claims and aggressive maneuvers as part of a clear effort to set boundaries and send a clear message that the Japanese Defense Force is ready to deter China and defend its interests.

“China has continued its unilateral attempts to change the status quo in the East and South China Seas. China Coast Guard (CCG) vessels are sighted almost daily in the contiguous zone surrounding the Senkaku Islands, an inherent part of the territory of Japan, and repeatedly intrude into Japan’s territorial waters,” the White paper, titled 2021 Defense of Japan, states.

The paper goes on to cite specifics related to Chinese provocations such as incidents where Chinese Coast Guard vessels have intimidated Japanese fishing boats and intruded into Japan’s territorial waters. Alliances with the United States and other partners are also heavily emphasized in the new paper, which cites the importance of a collective resolve formed to contain China.

Chinese Coast Guard (CCG)

Chinese coast guard vessels entered Japan's territorial waters near the China-claimed Senkaku Islands on Feb. 16, approaching a Japanese fishing vessel, the Japan Coast Guard said. © Reuters

“The Alliance is the cornerstone of peace, security, and prosperity in the region, and we will strive to further strengthen its deterrence and response capabilities in order to further solidify the unshakable bond of the Japan-U.S. Alliance,” the paper says.

Interestingly, the paper seems to indicate a clear gesture of support for the Pentagon’s Freedom of Navigation Operations by saying Japan supports the concept of a Free and Open Indo-Pacific. The White Paper cites a number of countries that support “Japan’s vision of the FOIP,” including Australia, India, and European countries including the United Kingdom, France, and Germany, as well as Canada and New Zealand.

F-35s - U.S. and Japan Partnership  

Japan’s strong defense stand mirrors much of its collaborative weapons developments with the U.S. in recent years, a recent element of which being a massive, multi-billion dollar F-35 buy. Japan is a key U.S. partner with a number of crucial weapons systems to include the SM-3 missile and Aegis ship-based radar.

The F-35 jet’s drone-like surveillance capability, which includes the technical capacity to detect enemy assets at long distances before it is seen itself, would certainly offer Japanese forces vastly improved defensive opportunities. 

A Japanese military armed with F-35 aircraft and less restricted might also function as an even more credible deterrent or counterbalance against Chinese provocations in the region. 

F-35 Japan

The first operational Japan Air Self-Defense Force F-35A taxis during an arrival ceremony at Misawa Air Base, Japan, Jan. 26, 2018.

A larger fleet of F-35 jets would also give Japan much greater reach, scope and territorial advantage as larger numbers of F-35 jets, engineered with high-fidelity, long-range sensors networked to one another through a common data link, would vastly expand the potential reach of any kind of large-scale engagement with China. 

China’s much larger size and geographical advantage could be mitigated or offset by larger numbers of dispersed, yet interoperable F-35s.

Accelerated weapons acquisition, including a huge Japanese F-35 jet buy, introduces a wide sphere of tactical and strategic dynamics for the power-balance in the region, while also raising questions about the prospect of further Japanese revisions to its 1947 Constitutional rejection of the country’s right to maintain a military or employ military force. 

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Japanese Self-Defense Forces & Future Wars

Japan is unlikely to fully embrace the concept of a forward operating offensive military force, yet it is clearly involved in a massive effort to strengthen its defense posture for the purpose of deterring China and ensuring a stable balance of power in the region.

The Japanese Self-Defense Forces, created in 1954, were intended for purely defensive reasons. Since the end of World War II, Article 9 of Japan’s 1947 Constitution—a section introduced by the US during the postwar occupation—has formally rejected the state’s right to maintain a military or employ military force. While still of course retaining a key focus upon deterrence and defensive military forces, some aspects of this Constitution may very well change with strong support from the U.S.

A Chinese newspaper is using provocative language to denigrate Japan’s growing military ability and claim that Japan would “lose badly” should it try to defend Taiwan.

Quoting Chinese officials and military experts, the Global Times newspaper accuses a new Japanese White Paper as “very warlike” and at odds with the countries’ pacifist constitution. 

A portion of the Japanese White Paper, called “2021 Defense of Japan,” states “stabilizing the situation surrounding Taiwan is important for Japan's security and the stability of the international community.” The Japanese essay also says that stability in the Taiwan Straits is “more important than ever” and threatened by ‘increasing military pressure” from China.

Japan’s gesture of support for Taiwan and the U.S. clearly seem to have inspired the aggressively worded commentary from Chinese military experts cited in the article. Regarding Taiwan, the Global Times also quotes Chinese military officials claiming that “China must and will reunify.”

Also, in a bold claim, the Chinese paper says China is now fully capable of militarily defeating the U.S. in the Pacific, adding that Japan would also be defeated by the PLA should massive conflict erupt.

Suggesting support for Taiwan independence represents a decisive move for Japan which is not only massively modernizing its military force with new missiles, drones, radars and F-35s, but also engaging in a greater number of cooperative military exercises, training, drills and war preparation operations.

Should some kind of major power conflict erupt in the South China Sea area, Japan would be uniquely positioned to support the U.S., given that Japanese destroyers now operate Aegis radar for ballistic missile defense in a way that could network with partner U.S. ships. 2021 assessments reports that Japan operates 37 destroyers.

USS Theodore Roosevelt USS Nimitz

Aircraft join the USS Theodore Roosevelt and USS Nimitz carrier strike groups in the South China Sea. Photo: US Navy

The Chinese paper further criticizes Japan for now beginning the process of selling arms to Taiwan and drawing upon its close alignment with the United States to provoke China.

Apart from threatening military consequences against Japan, China is also threatening to impact Japan’s financial interest based upon its involvement in Chinese business markets.

"China won't allow Japan to earn huge amounts of money from its market and threaten its national security and sovereignty at the same time. If Japan still tries to follow the US in containing China and even dares to defend Taiwan secessionist forces, it will lose badly,” the Global Times reports.

While perhaps numerically small when compared with larger great powers such as China and the U.S., the Japanese military could have a very large impact regarding any effort to defend Taiwan. Japan’s Aegis Radar-engineered destroyers could defend Taiwan against ballistic missile threats