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Japan to reinforce remote island defense

The Japanese government is increasing its vigilance against China following the release of a report by the U.S. Department of Defense that says China has been building up its military forces. It will review the National Defense Program Guidelines (NDPG), a basic policy for national defense, at the end of this year to further improve island defense capabilities and strengthen the Japan-U.S. alliance.


A senior official of Japan’s Ministry of Defense (MOD) commented on the Chinse Navy’s plan to expand its landing forces by saying: “The report offered a fresh reminder that China is focusing on amphibious operations. We have to pay attention to the fact from the perspective of island defense.”


The MOD laid out priority issues for its budgetary request for fiscal 2019 at a joint meeting of the Liberal Democratic Party’s national defense division and another LDP panel on Aug. 16. The issues will serve as the framework for the NDPG and included “strengthening of capabilities in territorial waters and airspace” and “strengthening of mobility and deployment capabilities” with China in mind.


The MOD will emphasize the reinforcement of striking capabilities by acquiring and developing long-range missiles for seaborne and airborne operations. In the fiscal 2018 budget, it included costs related to the introduction of three types of long-range cruise missiles with a range of about 500 to 900 km to be mounted on the Air Self-Defense Force’s fighter jets. The MOD is also conducting on research on “high-speed glide bombs for defending islands,” which are ground-to-ground missile.


The MOD will also enhance capabilities for recovering occupied islands. In March this year, it established the “Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade,” the Ground Self-Defense Force’s amphibious unit. The unit currently has some 2,100 members but the number will be expanded to some 3,000 by around 2021. The MOD will also improve capabilities to deal with the intensifying activities of the Chinese military’s bombers by introducing more F-35A cutting-edge stealth fighters.


But there is a limit to what Japan can do on its own to counter China. A senior MOD official underscored, “We have no choice but to enhance the deterrence capability of the Japan-U.S. alliance by stepping up joint training exercises between the Self-Defense Forces and the U.S. military.”

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