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Japan to increase involvement with South China Sea

  • 2015-06-01 15:00:00
  • , Sankei
  • Translation

(Sankei: June 1, 2015 – p. 2)

 

 By Yasushi Sugimoto

 

 China’s construction of an artificial island in the South China Sea became the focus of discussions at the Asia Security Summit (Shangri-la Dialogue) that ended on May 31. Defense Minister Gen Nakatani indicated active involvement with this issue at the conference but there are limits to what the Self-Defense Forces (SDF) can do in its surveillance and reconnaissance operations. How can Japan make a contribution with its limited capability? The Japanese government continues to grope for ways amid the heating up of the U.S.-China conflict over the Spratly (Nansha in Chinese) Islands.

 

 At his meeting with Singaporean Defense Minister Ng Eng Hen on May 31, Nakatani stressed that “Japan will contribute to regional peace and security.” Ng praised Nakatani’s speech on the previous day, where he criticized China by name for constructing the artificial island.

 

 The U.S. government is increasingly critical of China. It hopes for Japan’s “contribution” in surveillance and reconnaissance operations in the South China Sea. If China comes to use the Fiery Cross (Yongshu in Chinese) Reef, where it is building a runway, to operate military aircraft, critical junctions in the sea lane, including the Strait of Malacca, will be within the Chinese armed forces’ operational range. This is not a problem unrelated to Japan.

 

 Nakatani indicated in his speech on May 30 that the SDF and U.S. ships will conduct joint exercises in the South China Sea to restrain China.

 

 Japan will also increase its assistance to the ASEAN states, which are stakeholders in the South China Sea. The government is considering providing reconnaissance planes and other equipment to the Philippines and other countries. Amendments to the Defense Ministry Organization Law, which it is working to enact in the current Diet session, will add “international cooperation” to the ministry’s duties. This will enable Japan to be involved with the training of personnel for the operation of the equipment and to step up assistance in capacity building of the armed forces of these countries. (Abridged)

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