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Expert: Consider how to gain people’s understanding for acquiring “capabilities to attack enemy bases”

  • January 8, 2022
  • , Yomiuri , p. 4
  • JMH Translation

(An interview with Kokubun Ryosei, former President of the National Defense Academy, by Amano Yusuke)


After the Cold War, people thought that the international order would stabilize with increasing globalization and more interdependence among nations. As we can see from recent opposition to globalization and the expansion of populism, the world moves on a country-by-country basis. The nation-state is playing a major role once again.


The unilateralist trend will continue with the COVID-19 pandemic. The conflict between the democratic and the authoritarian systems has deepened, as symbolized by the U.S.-China confrontation. The central focus of this year’s global situation will be U.S.-China relations. I think that there will be ongoing dialogue although there is a huge divide between the two countries and it will be impossible to significantly improve the relationship.


Everything in China is currently focused on the Chinese Communist Party Congress scheduled for this fall. The highest priority is Xi Jinping’s stable transition to a third term. Handling tech giant Alibaba Group and real estate giant China Evergrande Group, as well as hosting the 2022 Winter Olympics and Paralympics in Beijing are part of the transition effort.


China has a strong sense of crisis about being pulled into a Western world order centered around the U.S. Economic growth powered by reform and opening the country has slowed. China has no choice but to strengthen its control over the country and suppress opposition in order to stabilize the system.


China’s aim with respect to Taiwan is to create an advantageous situation over time. Priority is not placed on an immediate resolution. The aim is to maintain moderate tension and use domestic nationalism to concentrate power.


China is focused on technological development in new areas such as cyberspace, artificial intelligence (AI), and outer space. Unlike nuclear weaponry, these new areas cannot be completely controlled by the U.S. It will not be possible to establish deterrence in these areas. China can compete with the U.S. because it is not concerned with privacy issues.


Prime Minister Kishida Fumio needs to play a difficult role in seeking dialogue with China while building on the alliance with the U.S.


This year marks the 50th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic relations between Japan and China, but the Japanese people’s feelings toward China are very bad. From a Japanese perspective, China’s rules are not transparent and it is not clear whether it will obey rules and laws. We cannot expect significant progress in relations with China when distrust has taken root among the people. It will be difficult for Xi to make a state visit to Japan, but there should be a forum for dialogue between leaders, including phone calls. The 50th anniversary is an opportunity, but the content of the relationship, not its outward form, should be improved.


Amid worsened Japan-South Korea relations, it is necessary to continue to seek the resumption of dialogue while searching for solutions to historical issues. After the March 2022 South Korean presidential election, we should search for ways to improve relations with the newly elected president. As tensions grow in East Asia, the U.S. is the one who is most concerned by the deterioration of Japan-South Korea relations. We must not forget that China and North Korea are pleased with this situation.


Asian countries struggling with their relationship with China are expecting Japan to play a leading role in security, in addition to the U.S.


Cooperation with the U.S. is indispensable for the development of defense capabilities, but Japan should develop such a capability on its own. From a private-sector perspective, it takes too much time to execute the defense budget after its approval. It is also difficult to make a profit in the area of defense. The defense industry will not grow if corporate activity does not lead to profits.


The prime minister has stated that the National Security Strategy, which will be reviewed at the end of this year, will clearly discuss Japan’s possession of the “capability to attack enemy bases.” The essence of discussion will be the ability to respond to attacks on Japan and counterattack capabilities. Gain the people’s understanding of this will require effort, including a possible revision of terminology.


In China, there is the phrase “intelligent war.” In the future, a war will not kill others, nor will we die in war. The idea is for the war to be over before the fighting begins, which is exactly the idea behind Sun Tzu’s Art of War. Japan should have a sense of crisis over its lagging behind in cutting-edge fields such as cyberspace, AI, and electromagnetic waves. It is also necessary to assume that a cyberattack may stop infrastructure-related public facilities and destroy defense systems. Budget increases are welcome, but these fields require talented people to function. Developing a medium- to long-term strategy of how to nurture human resources is very important.

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