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Japan raises alarm over Taiwan security for first time in annual defense review

/ 06:12 PM July 13, 2021
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Japan noted how China has been further intensifying military activities around Taiwan. REUTERS

TOKYO — Japan directly broached the subject of Taiwan security for the first time in its annual defense review released on Tuesday (July 13), as it raised the alarm over the growing brinkmanship and arms race in the region.

“Stabilizing the situation surrounding Taiwan is important for Japan’s security and the stability of the international community,” Japan’s Defense Ministry said in its annual white paper for the first time.

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“Therefore, it is necessary that we pay close attention to the situation with a sense of crisis more than ever before.”

This goes further than last year’s report, which had merely noted that the overall military balance between China and Taiwan is tilting in China’s favor, with the gap appearing to be growing year by year.

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The report on Tuesday said: “Attention should be paid to trends such as the strengthening of Chinese and Taiwanese forces, the sale of weapons to Taiwan by the United States, and Taiwan’s own development of its main military equipment.”

It further cited how China has been further intensifying military activities around Taiwan, including the entry of Chinese aircraft into Taiwanese airspace.

It noted that the US has “demonstrated a clear stance of supporting Taiwan in military aspects”, through weapon sales and the transits by US vessels through the Taiwan Strait.

“While Washington has made clear its stance to support Taiwan militarily, it is unlikely that Beijing will make any compromises on its position given that Taiwan is its core interest,” the report said.

“As the conflict between the US and China over Taiwan is becoming ever more apparent, it is necessary for Japan to monitor developments with an acute sense of tension.”

The white paper further noted the tense security environment surrounding Japan, with the rapid military build-up by “military powers with high quality and quantity”.

“Chinese military threats, combined with insufficient transparency about China’s defense policies and military affairs, have become a matter of grave concern to the region, including Japan and the international community,” it said.

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The report further urged China to play a more cooperative role with the region and the international community to allay tensions.

China’s defense budget of 1.36 trillion yuan (S$283.9 billion) this year, or a 6.8 per cent increase from last year, eclipses Japan’s budgeted 5.34 trillion yen (S$65.4 billion), itself a rise of 0.5 per cent, the white paper said.

Comparing their defense armada, China owns 52 modern submarines to Japan’s 21 and 71 modern destroyers and frigates to Japan’s 47. China also has a whopping 1,146 fourth- and fifth-generation fighter jets to Japan’s 313.

“China has sustained high-level growth of its defense budget without transparency, engaging in broad, rapid improvement of its military power in qualitative and quantitative terms with focus on nuclear, missile, naval and air forces,” the white paper said.

The document cited China’s superiority in new domains such as space, cyber and the electromagnetic spectrum, as it warned of the growing threat of “hybrid warfare”.

The white paper also noted that longstanding issues of territorial rights continue to be unresolved, reiterating Japan’s claim to islands over which it is embroiled in territorial disputes with its neighbors.

Japan administers the East China Sea islets it calls Senkaku, a claim that is disputed by China, which calls them Diaoyu.

Japan lays claim to the South Korea-administered Dokdo, which it calls Takeshima, in the Sea of Japan, which is referred to as the East Sea on the Korean Peninsula.

It also claims the Russia-administered Southern Kuril islands, which Japan calls the Northern Territories. These islands lie off the northeast coast of Hokkaido.

Japan’s defense review suggested that one means to overcome regional security challenges was through the creation of a “regional cooperation framework in the security realm” that covers the Indo-Pacific region.

Japan seeks to do this through the “strategic promotion of multifaceted and multi-layered defense cooperation” under its Free and Open Indo-Pacific vision.

While Japan formally has only one security ally, the US, Tokyo is promoting closer defense partnerships with regions like South-east Asia, Australia, New Zealand, India, Canada, as well as with European countries like Britain and France.

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TAGS: Asia, China, Defense, Japan, Military, Taiwan
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