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“Seiron” column: New gov’t should present fundamental national strategy

  • October 14, 2021
  • , Sankei , p. 7
  • JMH Translation

By Morimoto Satoshi, advisor to Takushoku University


Recent opinion polls suggest that among the issues upon which people pin hopes on the new government of Kishida Fumio, diplomacy and security challenges lead all others. This may indicate that many people feel a sense of crisis about the future given the security environment in and outside Japan.


The Japan-U.S. alliance is obviously important, but the security framework in the Indo-Pacific region is rapidly changing with the creation of the Quad alliance [among Japan, the U.S., Australia, and India] and the AUKUS partnership [among the U.S., the UK, and Australia]. On the other hand, the U.S. administration under President Joe Biden continues to adopt a top-down approach, leaving concerns about whether the administration had fully coordinated the deadline for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan with the Department of Defense or whether it had sufficiently discussed the Australian submarine issue with the Department of State.


Showing Japan’s presence


The results of the second Quad summit held last month point to remarkable achievements since the first Quad summit held online in March. But the Quad has no secretariat, prompting Japan to play a coordinating role so that various complicated problems can be resolved. Japan needs to play a role to make administrative adjustments in providing support for delivering COVID-19 vaccines, forging partnerships for hydrogen and other new energy sources and infrastructure, solving the North Korean issues, maintaining maritime order, and solving the Myanmar issue by taking advantage of being at the geographic center of the Quad nations while reducing the U.S.’s burden and showing Japan’s presence. 


Japan must review the National Security Strategy (NSS), the National Defense Program Guidelines (NDPG), and the Medium-Term Defense Program (MTDP) over the next year. The U.S. has also been reviewing various strategies, requiring Japan to adjust to the revised U.S. strategies and to draw up a comprehensive strategy against China.


When doing so, the government should consider abolishing the NDPG and incorporating its guidelines into the NSS and limiting review of the MTDP to the attachment of an appendix. The notion of economic security was established to meet the needs of the times. Japan should first craft a basic strategy and then decide the role of the relevant ministers and details of [economic security] promotion measures while coordinating areas of authority with the ministries and agencies.


It is a pressing issue for Japan to strengthen the defense posture in its southwestern region and the security arrangements of the Japan Coast Guard as well as the security relationship among Japan, the U.S., and Taiwan to better deal with the Taiwan and Senkaku issues. But it is vital not to simply pass legislation and rest on our oars but to beef up realistic responses and preparedness consistently. 


National intelligence agency needs to be established


Priority should be given not only to defensive strength but also strengthening counterattack capabilities and deterrence functions by acquiring a long-range [missile] system that places an enemy in range. To that end the defense budget needs to be increased considerably to where it accounts for more than 1.2% of the gross domestic product (GDP) in the budget for 2023 onward. Especially, Japan needs to substantially reinforce standoff defense capabilities with the capacity to launch missiles from outside an enemy’s threat range, its response to hypersonic [missile] systems, and defense against missiles. It must also beef up equipment for unmanned systems and technological development.


What’s more, Japan is not fully prepared for threats coming from the waters and skies south of it. Japan should carefully examine whether the F-35B fighter jets and the Izumo to carry them are enough to cope with the threats.


The capabilities to operate in the domains of outer space, cyberspace, and electromagnetic waves are important. There are many things for Japan to do to enhance defense capabilities in those domains. Japan needs to put a substantial amount of assets and human resources into cooperation with the U.S., human resource development, technological development, and the development of a command-and-control organization to have sufficient capabilities to cope with the challenges posed by China, North Korea, and Russia. Cooperation with industry is also indispensable.


Now is the time for Japan to seriously consider setting up a single national intelligence agency by further improving intelligence functions, a security clearance (checking the credibility of staff who deal with classified information) system, and a secret patent system. For Japan to join the Five Eyes and play a role in promoting advanced technologies under the Quad alliance, it must adopt innovative policies for ensuring information security. The failure to do so is likely to leave Japan behind other advanced nations. (Abridged)


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