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Editorial: Defense white paper shows need to respond to new military technologies

  • September 28, 2019
  • , The Japan News , 7:34 p.m.
  • English Press

Technological innovations have increased new threats, such as new types of missiles and attacks in space and cyberspace. The government needs to enhance its response capabilities.


The 2019 Defense White Paper has been released. It analyzes the security environment and sets out a vision for the nation’s medium- to long-term defense system.


Regarding North Korea’s nuclear and missile development, the white paper maintained the conventional severe view and said it poses “serious and imminent threats.”


North Korea has deployed hundreds of ballistic missiles that have the entirety of Japan within their range. Since May, Pyongyang has improved its technological ability by successively launching new missiles that follow irregular flight paths and low-altitude short-range missiles.


Moves that raise regional tensions cannot be overlooked. The Self-Defense Forces and the U.S. military must cooperate closely to strengthen their alert and surveillance systems and interception capabilities.


The government plans to deploy Aegis Ashore, a ground-based missile interception system, but opposition has been strong in both Akita and Yamaguchi prefectures, which are candidate sites for the deployment. The government should deepen public understanding of the need to build a missile defense shield.


On the impact that China could have on the security environment in Asia, the white paper stated strong concerns. China has reinforced its naval and air force capabilities with a huge military budget. In the waters around the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture, armed Chinese government ships have continued activities.


Strengthening the defense of the Nansei Islands must not be neglected. It is essential for the SDF to make efforts to maintain its deterrent capability by deploying coast observation and security units on the remote islands.


Keep eye on ROK row


The white paper specifically described for the first time China’s and Russia’s focus on the development of technologies such as drones equipped with artificial intelligence. The white paper presented the prospect that such technologies are expected to “dramatically change battle scenes in the future.”


Drones are said to have been used in attacks on Saudi Arabian oil facilities. It is important for the government to recognize such an attack as a real threat and study ways to detect such threats, among other issues.


Both China and Russia are increasing their attack capabilities in space and cyberspace. Japan and the United States must work together to swiftly implement countermeasures, such as deploying surveillance satellites.


Among countries and regions with which Japan has promoted security cooperation — other than the United States — South Korea came second in the previous white paper, after Australia. However, South Korea’s listing order fell to fourth in the 2019 white paper.


This change was apparently made in light of the deterioration of the Tokyo-Seoul relationship, which has been caused by such issues as lawsuits over former requisitioned workers and the unilateral termination of the bilateral General Security of Military Information Agreement.


The government decided not to invite the South Korean military to a fleet review to be held by the Maritime Self-Defense Force next month. Caution is needed to ensure that the confrontation between Japan and South Korea will not create an open rift in trilateral cooperation, which also involves the United States.


(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 28, 2019)

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