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Editorial: Formulate security strategy that is responsive to changes

Drastic changes are taking place in Japan’s security environment. The 2018 Defense White Paper released by the government on Aug. 28 calls North Korea’s development of nuclear arms and missiles “an unprecedented serious imminent threat.” Along with responding to the expansion of China’s maritime and air military power, there is an urgent need to draw up an effective strategy to enhance the stability of Japan and the region.


The White Paper discusses in its foreword North Korea’s three nuclear tests and firing of 40 ballistic missiles since 2016. The assessment of the DPRK is harsher than in the White Paper last year, calling for vigilance at a time when this country has not taken any concrete actions toward easing the tension.


The report points out that it is “of great significance” that the U.S.-DPRK summit “put down in writing North Korea’s explicit commitment to the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.” On the other hand, it maintains that “the perception of threat remains basically unchanged” in light of North Korea’s efforts to upgrade its nuclear and missile capabilities.


North Korea has not revealed its plans for denuclearization following the U.S.-DPRK summit and it is unclear what further steps the Trump administration intends to take. This situation does not warrant optimism, so Japan and the U.S. need to further reinforce their missile defense efforts.


With regard to China, the document reiterates that this country is “rapidly modernizing its military capabilities, constituting a serious security concern for the region and the international community, including areas around Japan.” With the substantial increase in its defense budgets, China is stepping up the deployment of aircraft carriers, next-generation fighters, and missiles. It is also increasing its activities in the Senkaku Islands area. Japan must remain vigilant.


Although the Self-Defense Forces (SDF) are reviewing their troop structure and deploying longer-range missiles to reinforce island defense, they are facing serious budgetary constraints. It is important to cooperate with the U.S., Australia, India, and other countries in the region to make efforts to restrain attempts to change the status quo by force.


The White Paper also discusses enhancing responses in space and cyberspace, as well as preparedness for attacks by electromagnetic pulse. It includes appendices explaining the various types of SDF jobs and the lives of SDF members in light of the difficulty of recruiting SDF members in recent years. Earnest efforts should be made to study equipment and organizational structures that will enable efficient troop operations.

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