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Editorial: Prepare for security threats to Japan from a long-term perspective

Japan must be fully prepared to deal with threats from a long-term perspective, by forecasting the future security environment.


Defense of Japan 2018, an annual white paper, has been released. The paper analyzes the regional situation, with its findings to be used as the basis for developing the country’s future defense capabilities.


Regarding North Korea’s nuclear and missile development, the white paper notes that they represent “an unprecedentedly serious and imminent threat” to Japan’s security. Taking into consideration the fact that last year North Korea repeatedly fired missiles and conducted its sixth nuclear test, the paper has followed the government’s established understanding.


This year, North Korea has restrained itself from making military provocations, thereby mitigating tensions. Nevertheless, the course of action Pyongyang will take toward abandoning its nuclear and missile programs remains uncertain, even after the U.S.-North Korea summit. Concerns could linger that the easing of tensions will be short-lived.


The white paper refers to the possibility of North Korea starting its provocative actions again, if North Korea “overconfidently and wrongly believes that it has obtained strategic deterrence against the United States.”


Given the present circumstances in which North Korea has deployed hundreds of ballistic missiles that keep Japan in range, it is inevitable for the paper not to have changed its assessment of the threat posed by Pyongyang.


Both Japan and the United States should confirm the importance of their alliance and enhance deterrence.


Secure use of new domains


Considering this to be a realistic threat to Japan, it is important to tackle systematically reinforcing this nation’s missile defense.


Regarding China’s moves to build up its military capabilities, the white paper says it poses “a strong security concern for the international community.” Citing the fact that a submarine of the Chinese military navigated underwater in the contiguous zone off the Senkaku Islands in January, the paper points out China’s “unilateral escalation of military activities.”


China has put its coast guard — equivalent to the Japan Coast Guard — under the wing of its military. The U.S. Defense Department predicts that the Chinese Navy will expand its troops, keeping in mind potential landing operations on the Senkaku Islands and Taiwan.


In order for the Nansei Islands, which include the Senkaku Islands, not to become a “vacuum zone” in terms of defense, it is necessary to hasten the deployment of units tasked with vigilance and surveillance over the islands.


In addition, it is vital to make efforts to maintain deterrence by enhancing the capabilities of the amphibious rapid deployment brigade, whose primary task is to retake a remote island in the event it is captured by a foreign armed unit.


Osprey transport aircraft are being considered to convey the brigade to such spots. The Defense Ministry and the Saga prefectural government have agreed on the deployment of Ospreys to Saga Airport. The ministry has to continue making efforts to win the understanding of local fishermen and others who oppose the deployment.


It is worthy of attention that the white paper expressly says “it is vitally important to secure the use of new domains such as cyberspace and outer space.” There are risks that a situation will occur in which the communications functions of satellites are obstructed by cyber-attacks, incapacitating conventional military power.


Other areas that need to be studied include the proper makeup of the cross-sectional defense system, which would be unhampered by the framework of ground, sea and air defense, and the readiness taken by the entire government.

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