To prepare against the growing threat from North Korea, it is important for Japan to steadily enhance its overall defense capability by introducing defense equipment suited to such a threat.
The white paper on the defense of Japan for 2017 has been released. The annual paper says North Korea’s nuclear and missile development represents a “threat that has entered a new stage.” In light of North Korea’s launches of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and other provocations, the paper has raised the degree of threat posed to Japan.
North Korea has, so far this year, test-fired ballistic missiles over 10 times. In March, it launched four ballistic missiles simultaneously, and had three of them splash down in waters within Japan’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
The white paper sounds an alarm by referring for the first time to North Korea’s “enhancement of accuracy and operational capabilities” needed for a “saturation attack,” in which a large number of missiles would be launched simultaneously to break through the defense network of a targeted country.
As North Korea has repeatedly test-fired missiles on a “lofted trajectory,” which sends a projectile higher than normal, the paper also expresses concern over the development of “having a missile able to fly over a longer distance.” There is no doubt that North Korea’s technological strength has been rapidly advancing.
As North Korea has repeatedly declared it will attack Japan, the Defense Ministry must expedite its efforts to realize a defense system of eight Aegis-equipped destroyers carrying the Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) interceptor missiles and to improve the ground-based Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) guided missiles and the like. It is also necessary for the ministry to decide on newly introducing a ground-based Aegis system.
Isn’t the time ripe for the ministry to positively consider Japan’s possessing the capability to strike enemy bases?
Watch Chinese activities
With regard to North Korea’s nuclear development, the paper says it is possible that, with substantial progress made in the program, North Korea has become able to miniaturize a nuclear warhead thanks to its tests, including the fifth nuclear test conducted in September last year.
A U.S. newspaper has also reported an analysis by the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency, stating that North Korea has successfully produced a miniaturized nuclear warhead that can fit inside its ICBMs. If this is true, it presents a serious situation for both Japan and the United States.
As to the impact China would have on the security environment in Asia, the white paper calls it “a matter of strong concern,” thus going a step further than the analysis in last year’s paper. It also emphasizes that China has continuously taken “actions which can even be considered high-handed,” such as its attempt to “change the status quo by force” in the East China Sea and the South China Sea.
The expansion in the range of activities taken by China’s military vessels and aircraft must be watched.
The paper also points out there is a possibility that activities of the Chinese military “may become brisk” in the Sea of Japan, in addition to those in the East China Sea. Such activities are believed to be aimed at “enhancing capabilities to expand into the high seas.”
The Self-Defense Forces must redouble their surveillance activities by ever more closely cooperating with the Japan Coast Guard.
As for Russia’s military forces, the white paper regards the deployment last November of surface-to-ship missile systems on Etorofu and Kunashiri islands in the northern territories off Hokkaido as problematic.
As the negotiations over the northern territories by the governments of Japan and Russia continue, a one-sided military buildup in the territories cannot be overlooked. It is essential for Japan to strongly protest against Russia and tenaciously urge the country to exercise self-restraint.