News / Asia

New Japan Defense Paper Angers Neighbors

China and South Korea are criticizing the latest defense report released by Japan.

As the annual security white paper was released Tuesday, Japan's defense minister, Itsunori Onodera, took note of what the government considers increasingly serious security threats from China.

The Japanese defense minister says the Chinese “have attempted to change the status quo by force in ways incompatible with the existing order of international law and in ways that could be seen as provocative.”

Japan and China have a long-standing dispute over small islands in the East China Sea controlled by Tokyo. Tension has escalated since the central Japanese government, last September, purchased the unoccupied islands (known as Senkaku in Japanese and Daoiyu in Chinese) from their private Japanese owner.

Within hours of the issuance of the Japanese white paper, the foreign ministry spokesperson in Beijing responded by accusing Tokyo of making unfounded accusations against China.

Hua Chunying says China's maritime activities are carried out according to international law, the country is on the path of peaceful development and always stands for resolving territorial disputes through dialogue. But, she says, Japan has recently “played up the China threat, causing tensions and confrontation. And the international community cannot help but worry over where Japan is heading.”

The white paper also suggests Japanese forces should have the capability to attack enemy bases as an effective deterrent against ballistic missile threats.

That is in response to North Korea's nuclear and missile development programs, as indicated by defense minister Onodera.

However, South Korea - also a potential target of the rival North's forces - is joining China in criticizing the Japanese document. That is because the annual paper - as it has since 2005 - asserts a territorial claim over a rocky outcrop, covering less than one-fifth of a square kilometer, held by South Korea (known as Dokdo in Korean and Takeshima in Japanese).

South Korean army Colonel Wi Yong-seop, speaking for the country's defense ministry, denies Japan has any geographical, historical or legal right to the rocks.

Colonel Wi says if Japan refuses to withdraw its territorial claim there can be no expectations of defense exchanges or military cooperation between the two neighbors.

This is the first such report published since Shinzo Abe returned as Japan's prime minister. He has expressed a desire to alter his country's pacifist Constitution, drafted by U.S. military occupation forces shortly after Japan's defeat in 1945.

That makes some of Japan's neighbors uneasy, believing it could lead to a revival of Japanese militarism. There is a widespread perception in the region that Japan has never sufficiently expressed remorse for its brutal colonization of the Far East and much of the Asian continent before and during the Pacific War.

Japan, for the first time in eleven years, this year increased its defense budget and is drafting a new overall defense plan. It is also increasing the scope of defense drills with its primary ally, the United States, which maintains more than a dozen military bases and tens of thousands of uniformed personnel in Japan.

Steve Herman

A veteran journalist, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.

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by: Yoshi from: Sapporo
July 10, 2013 12:55 AM
I can say most of Japanese politicians seem bad at dealing with diplomacy. They tend to pay more attention to unilateral interests than bilateral benefits weighing less on talks and reconcilliation.

PM Abe is noticed as a atrong hawk and aiming at renewing the constitution from pushed one to original one which allows self-defence forces attack opponents. Recently Japanese pubric opinion has put him refrain from such a challenge to make measures easy to amend the constitution. The main reason why he has yet maintained relatively high pubric support is so far his economical policies are going well.

I wish our neighbors would see us general Japanese as peace lovers. Now more than two thirds of population were born after WWII. We want to get along with neighbors.



by: JT from: SF
July 09, 2013 10:18 PM
To Victor,
What about China? China does not have any problems with her neighbors? China did not attack India? China did not attack Vietnam? China is just a big panda. Harmless. Right? The un elected leaders of China are wise and peaceful.

by: ponsuke from: Japan
July 09, 2013 9:56 AM
This report offers a very superficial insight about the issue. Mr. Herman may be a left-wing or a pro China reporter.
In Response

by: Victor from: Singapore
July 09, 2013 7:53 PM
And how is this report 'superficial' except stating the facts that Japan's neighbors are genuinely angered. The fact that Japan has serious border issues with practically all her neighbors and the abhorrent war history views that her leaders hold are very telling indeed.

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