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Japan, U.S. growing wary as China, Russia getting closer

  • September 12, 2018
  • , Yomiuri , p. 3
  • JMH Translation
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By Kojiro Tanigawa from political department and Michitaka Kaiya from Washington bureau


The Japanese government is growing nervous about close military ties being developed between China and Russia. Japan might be forced to carry out a “two-front operation” if China and Russia work closely with each other and engage in militaristic actions in Japan’s southwestern and northern regions.


Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told Russian President Vladimir Putin that Japan is “closely watching” the China-Russia military exercise when he met with the Russian leader at Vladivostok on Sept. 10. At a press conference held on Sept. 11, Minister of Defense Itsunori Onodera noted that “with China participating in the drill for the first time, we continue to keep a close eye on the situation with a grave concern.


The government included plans to bolster the Self-Defense Forces’ response capabilities in its National Defense Program Guidelines set forth in 2013. With the Chinese military broadening its maritime reach, the SDF has been working on the quick deployment of its units stationed in Hokkaido and the mainland to the southwestern region.


But Japan will be forced to review its defenses if Russia allies with China and gets many military planes and ships to travel in Japan’s northern areas. “Japan needs to step up its readiness in the northern area while focusing on the southwestern region for the time being,” said Kiyofumi Iwata, former chief of staff of the Ground Self-Defense Force.


Nonetheless the Japan-Russia ties remain stable thanks to mutual trust developed between their leaders. There is a small likelihood that Russia will develop the hostility to Japan. “We need to strengthen our deterrence through the Japan-U.S. alliance and simultaneously need to make diplomatic efforts not to hurt our ties with Russia,” said a senior official of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The government is determined to continue its efforts to bolster the Japan-Russia relationship.


Meanwhile, the U.S. Trump administration, which calls China and Russia “revisionist powers” that challenge the U.S.-led international order, is also paying close attention to the China-Russia military drill. “Their mutual distrust runs deep due to historical background and developing genuine cooperation is not an easy task for them as this requires them to openly reveal their strategies to each other,” said a source close to the U.S. military. Though such a view prevails, the U.S. will keep a close eye on how things will develop.  

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