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Editorial: Beef up defense capabilities to deter China

Strengthening the deterrent power of the Japan-U.S. alliance against the threat of China is a shortcut to maintaining peace.

 

A meeting of the Japan-U.S. Security Consultative Committee (2+2) was held in Tokyo with foreign and defense ministers of the two countries.

 

The Japanese and the U.S. governments released a joint document naming China and stating that the two countries oppose China’s acts that undermine the rules-based international system, intimidate others in the region, and undermine stability.

 

The joint statement also strongly warned China about the issues of the Senkaku Islands (Okinawa Prefecture), Taiwan, the South China Sea, and the suppression of human rights in Hong Kong and the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. It also expressed “serious concern” over China’s Coast Guard Law and confirmed the need for the denuclearization of North Korea and the immediate resolution of the abduction issue.

 

We give a high marks to the fact that Japan and the U.S. regard as problematic China’s “behavior that runs counter to the existing international order” and expressed their resolve to deter it.

 

This is the first time since the inauguration of the Biden administration that the U.S. secretaries of state and defense visited a foreign country together. Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga will visit the U.S. in early April and will be the first foreign leader to hold face-to-face talks with President Biden. This is a sign of the Biden administration’s emphasis on the Japan-U.S. alliance.

 

The U.S. representatives reiterated their “unwavering commitment” to the defense of Japan, including the Senkakus, during the two plus two meeting. We welcome this but Japan should not just be relieved.

 

Tokyo must give substance to its policy of deterrence against China. This is because the Chinese Communist regime, a believer in force, cannot be restrained by words alone.

 

On March 9, Adm. Philip Davidson, commander of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, testified before the U.S. Congress that China’s military expansion “is disrupting our ability to deter China with conventional forces, and it is becoming the greatest challenge to the U.S. and its allies.” Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said during the two plus two meeting that “the strategic environment in the Indo-Pacific is in a totally different dimension than before.”

 

The crisis is serious. The “2 plus 2” meeting was held in Tokyo because Japan is located directly in front of China, on the front line. Japan and the U.S. will now work out concrete measures to enhance the alliance. Despite its difficult financial situation, Japan is the world’s third largest economy. Tokyo should cooperate with Washington to bring about an advantageous military balance with China.

 

In the joint announcement, Japan stated that it is “determined to improve its capabilities to solidify the defense of the nation and further strengthen the Japan-U.S. alliance.” The government must not let this be just a verbal promise. We hope that Prime Minister Suga will make a decision to drastically increase the defense budget to strengthen Japan’s defense capability.

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