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China, Russia, and Japan’s security strategy

  • February 20, 2022
  • , Asahi , p. 7
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By Sato Taketsugu, senior staff writer


For Asian nations, the situation in Ukraine is not someone else’s problem. China is paying close attention to Russia’s movements, the inconsistent policies of the Biden administration, and disorganized response by the United States and European nations. The United States’ response will have an impact on Asia, including the diplomacy and security of Japan.


On Feb. 4, Chinese leader Xi Jinping met with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who was visiting China during the Beijing Winter Olympics. The leaders issued a joint statement demonstrating coordination between the two countries by saying that [together] they “will oppose expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).” Highly suspicious that China is looking to take advantage of the turmoil in Ukraine, the U.S. government is closely watching China’s next step.


Japan’s concerns are threefold. The first is how to respond to an attempt by authoritarian states to change the status quo by military as well as economic force. While Japan has decided to redirect imported LNG to Europe, this action doesn’t constitute a direct sanction. If enforced, case-by-case sanction measures against Russia, which the Japanese government is currently preparing, will have a negative impact on Japan-Russia economic relations as well as on Japan’s economy.


Japan’s economic ties with China are much more substantial than those with Russia. China is watching the global response to Russia. Japan is at a difficult juncture.


The second concern is the close relationship and coordination between Russia and China.


In addition to the opposition to NATO expansion expressed at the China-Russia summit meeting during the Beijing Olympics, the two leaders demanded the United States halt its plan to deploy intermediate-range ballistic missiles to the Asia-Pacific region. Xi and Putin also confirmed that they will coordinate efforts in the areas of energy and sensitive technology. If China and Russia further deepen their cooperation, Japan will be forced to recalculate its diplomatic and security posture in the region and formulate a new, more complex strategy toward China.


The third concern involves the U.S. response to Russia. It is possible that hesitation on the U.S.’s part in preventing the Russian invasion of Ukraine will diminish U.S. influence in eyes of China, thereby encouraging it to review its approach toward Taiwan. On the other hand, if the United States shifts its military resources to respond to Russian moves, that might sacrifice deference against China.


The United States has abandoned its “two-front” strategy that aims to deal with two separate contingencies concurrently. Many Japanese officials and experts hoped the United States would ignore Russia in a two-front confrontation and focus its resources on China. However, ignoring Russian aggression could set a bad precedent.


The United States has been requesting Japan increase its role in deterring China. The military and economic rise of China, close coordination between authoritarian states, and the declining global influence of the United States have all come into even sharper relief due to the situation in Ukraine. These factors will impact Japan’s National Security Strategy, which is scheduled to be revised by the end of the year.

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