China’s naval forces are likely to step up their activities in waters around Japan, Tokyo’s annual defense report said yesterday, the latest expression of regional security concerns about China’s military buildup.
A week after Beijing said it was refitting an old Soviet aircraft carrier and sources said it was building two of its own carriers, the report said China has responded in a coercive manner to deal with regional conflicts.
Japan’s defense white paper also urged caution against cyber attacks and said North Korea’s nuclear and missile projects posed serious threats to national security.
“Given the modernization of China’s naval and air forces in recent years, its sphere of influence is likely to grow beyond its neighboring waters,” the report said. “It is expected that China will try to keep expanding the area of activities and to make its naval activities a routine practice in waters surrounding Japan, including the East China Sea and the Pacific Ocean, as well as in the South China Sea.”
China has been flexing its muscles in the South China Sea, where a territorial dispute with Taiwan and several Southeast Asian nations has festered for years.
Japan, which has its own territorial rows with China over East China Sea isles, is planning to boost the number of submarines to 22 from 16, in what specialists say is a response mainly to China’s aircraft carrier ambitions.
Although it is equipped with advanced combat aircraft, such as F-15 Eagle jets and naval vessels that include destroyers fitted with the Aegis ballistic missile defense system, Japan’s military, known as the Japan Self-Defense Forces, is untested in battle.
Japan has a standing military of about 230,000 personnel, one-tenth of China’s.
While China’s defense budget has shot up about 70 percent over the past five years, that of Japan — constrained by a public debt twice the size of its US$5 trillion economy — fell 3 percent over the same period, the report said.
The white paper also expressed concerns over China’s rapid military buildup, the lack of transparency of its defense equipment and defense expenditures and its assertiveness in dealing with international conflicts.
“When handling problems that involve a conflict of interest with neighboring countries including Japan, China has responded in a way seen as coercive, stirring up worries about its future direction,” it said.
The report also called for vigilance against cyber attacks after recent high-profile online assaults targeted the IMF, the US CIA and defense contractors, including Lockheed Martin.
“Cyber attacks on the information networks of governments and armed forces as well as on other vital infrastructure can have a grave effect on national security. Threats in cyberspace need to be closely watched,” the white paper said.
It also blamed North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile development programs, as well as its provocations on the Korean Peninsula, for destabilizing security in North Asia.
In contrast, the report praised Japan’s half-a-century-old security alliance with the US as an “indispensable cornerstone for peace and stability of the Asia-Pacific region.”