Sat, Aug 06, 2005 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Nation's defenses must be bolstered

There's little surprise in the latest white paper from Japan's defense agency. The report, which was approved by Japan's Cabinet Tuesday, is similar to the annual report on China's military buildup published by the US Department of Defense. Although each is based on its own country's observations and evaluations, the two reports clearly agree on one thing: China's military power is growing rapidly, and that growth has started to make many countries uneasy.

On Feb. 19, the US-Japan Security Consultative Committee, a deputy-ministerial-level security forum, listed stability in the Taiwan Strait as a "common strategic objective" for the two countries. Meanwhile, both country's white papers pay special attention to the cross-strait military situation. The US believes that the military balance is tipping in China's favor due to its rapid military expansion in recent years. But the Pentagon says that China still lacks the confidence and capability to carry out a large-scale amphibious assault. Although Taiwan is numerically inferior to China in terms of its weapons, the island enjoys a qualitative advantage. But this advantage is gradually eroding. Japan points out that China's military strength will surpass Taiwan's next year, when the balance of power is expected to change dramatically.

Geographically, the US is safely distant from China. Washington also needs Beijing's cooperation regarding its war on terror and the six-party talks with North Korea. Therefore, US arguments for and against China balance each other out. But as a close neighbor of China, Japan's anxiety is much greater.

The rapid expansion of China's submarine fleet and its arsenal of ballistic missiles has caused Japan considerable anxiety. China's anti-Japanese riots this April, provoked by the controversy over Japanese history textbooks and visits to the Yasukuni Shrine, have made Japan more sensitive to China's feelings of enmity. Relations have been further aggravated by sovereignty disputes over maritime territories near the Diaoyutais (釣魚台) and friction over gas and oil rights in the East China Sea. In this situation, calls by the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) for constitutional amendments to create a full-fledged army to replace Japan's Self-Defense Force and upgrade the Japan Defense Agency to full ministerial level appear to be warranted.

People's Liberation Army General Zhu Chenghu (朱成虎) has already stated that China would not shrink from a nuclear strike against cities on the west coast of the US if the US attacks China in a conflict over Taiwan. Although this threat was made against the US, it represents an even greater danger to Japan. If China's missiles can reach Los Angeles, they can certainly bring about Japan's ultimate nightmare: A repeat of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Taiwan has long been threatened by China's 700 missiles, but the nuclear threat can also be felt by the US, Japan and many other countries.

China has the military capability and will to protect its strategic interests. In the face of such threats, the best policy is to prepare a defensive strategy. The US-Japan security agreements have already established a security framework for east Asia. Strategic considerations have led to Taiwan being incorporated into this framework. Mechanisms for intelligence and military cooperation, combined missile defense and other matters have been established to ensure security in the Taiwan Strait and the East China Sea.

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