The following is the gist of Japan’s white paper on defense for 2017.
Trends in the International Community
The security environment surrounding Japan is beset by various issues and destabilizing factors, some of which are becoming increasingly tangible, acute, and serious.
North Korea will continue to attach importance to and rely on its military forces. Improvements in developing and operating nuclear and ballistic missiles have reached a new level of threat.
Weapons of Mass Destruction/Ballistic Missiles
North Korea is promoting the development of nuclear weapons as an indispensable deterrent for maintaining the existing regime. It is conceivable that North Korea’s nuclear weapons program has already made considerable progress in light of the fact that it has already conducted five nuclear tests. It is possible that North Korea has already achieved the miniaturization of nuclear weapons and has acquired nuclear warheads. The ballistic missile launched on July 4, 2017, is believed to be an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) as it could travel at least 5,500 kilometers. North Korea announced that it had demonstrated a workable nuclear warhead that can survive re-entry into the atmosphere. The country seems to be trying to put long-range ballistic missiles to practical use. The country also gives high priority to ballistic missile development. It launched more than 20 ballistic missiles in 2016 and is repeatedly launching ballistic missiles from mobile launchers and submarines. That suggests the country is possibly developing a new-type solid-fuel ballistic missile. It is trying to improve the capability to make a surprise attack by enhancing the secrecy and speed of missile launches. Missiles launched on a lofted trajectory are more difficult to intercept.
Uncertainty is growing, including the possibility that Pyongyang will carry out increasingly risky military provocations without giving sufficient consideration to diplomacy due to the chilling effect resulting from the frequent execution, demotion, and dismissal of senior officials.
China continues to display what may be described as a heavy-handed stance based on its own assertions inconsistent with the existing international order, including its attempts to alter the status quo by force, an approach that risks potentially explosive contingencies.
The Air Self-Defense Force (ASDF) scrambled fighter jets in response to approaching Chinese aircraft a record 851 times in fiscal 2016. The passage by the Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning through the western Pacific in December 2016 demonstrates the nation’s ability to project power over a distance. The country’s maritime forces may accelerate their activities in the Sea of Japan. The country’s naval vessels are also continuously and actively operating in the East China Sea. In recent years, China has been expanding its maritime activities to the southern waters.
National Defense Budget
The budget has been rapidly increasing since fiscal 1989. The nominal size of China’s announced national defense budget has grown approximately three-fold since fiscal 2007.
Careful attention is being paid to how President Vladimir Putin will deal with diplomatic isolation from the U.S. and Europe as well as the economic situation and promote efforts toward economic structural reforms, the modernization of military forces, and greater international influence while maintaining his power base.
Russian Forces in Japan’s Northern Territories
Russia is developing military facilities in the Northern Territories. It has also announced its deployment of land-to-sea missiles on some of the four islands of the Northern Territories, further expanding military activities under the de facto occupation.
Strengthening of the Japan-U.S. Alliance
The Japan-U.S. alliance is more important than ever in guaranteeing Japan’s security. The U.S. military presence in Japan based on the Japan-US Security Treaty not only leads to benefits for Japan but also for the U.S., which derives benefits from the region.
Return and Relocation of Futenma Air Base
Making the Futenma Air Base a permanent installation should be avoided at all cost. The Japanese government will make efforts to promptly reduce the burden of military bases on Okinawa by achieving the relocation and the return of the air base as soon as possible.
The crash-landing of a U.S. Marine Corps MV-22 Osprey in Okinawa on Dec. 13, 2016, caused anxiety among residents of Okinawa and relevant municipalities across Japan. Japan considers securing safety a major premise for U.S. military aircraft flights. The Japanese government will continue to ask the U.S. to give the utmost consideration to safety and minimize the impact on local residents.
<National Security Legislation>
South Sudan PKO Mission
As a result of a comprehensive deliberation based on the local situation and the status of training, the advance team of the 11th unit was the first to take on the “rush-and-rescue” missions and jointly protect PKO camps alongside foreign troops. The revision of the action plan for international peace keeping operations in South Sudan was approved in a cabinet meeting after being deliberated and finalized at the National Security Council on Nov. 15, 2016. The Self-Defense Forces’ engineering troops have achieved a certain level of accomplishment in the South Sudan capital of Juba. The troops ended their activities at the end of May 2017.
< Systems to Defend Japanese Territorial Land, Waters and Airspace>
The number of scrambles by the ASDF stood at a record 1,168 in fiscal 2016, an increase of 295 from the previous year.
Ballistic Missile Defense
Japan is taking all possible measures in intelligence collection and surveillance activities to respond to any situation by closely cooperating with the U.S. and South Korea. The effectuation of the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) on Nov. 23, 2016, is expected to further strengthen the relationship among Japan, South Korea, and the U.S.
<Human Foundation that Supports the Defense Force>
Empowerment of women
In April 2017, the JSDF Female Personnel Empowerment Initiative was formulated. Previously, some Ground Self-Defense Force (GSDF) units were closed to women. But the initiative virtually opened all SDF positions to women.