Japan’s defense white paper sends contradicting message on ties with China

By Li Ruoyu Source:Global Times Published: 2018/9/4 19:03:40

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

The latest edition of Japan's white paper on defense released on August 28 continues to play up the "China threat theory," besides the North Korean nuclear threat and specifically mentions China's military development and maritime activities in recent years. It implies that the paper does not consider Japan's security environment to be conducive.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying responded to the document saying it "made accusations against China's normal national defense development and military activities and pointed fingers at China's normal maritime activities, which is totally groundless and irresponsible."

The nature of the white paper has drawn wide attention.

In 1970, Japan released its first white paper on defense and has been releasing new versions annually since 1976. At the very beginning, the Japanese government wanted to introduce national defense policies to Japanese people through the paper to seek public support.

Despite wide international attention, the defense white paper is primarily aimed at Japanese citizens. Instead of declaring Japanese military capabilities to the world, the paper focuses more on building a basic understanding of the country's defense among its people in a way that meets the needs of the Japanese government. The question is how Japan's defense policy will develop next, after the concept - Japan is encircled by dangers - is instilled among the Japanese people?

Many analysts have noticed Japan's upcoming National Defense Program Guidelines, which will be introduced by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Unlike the defense white paper, which lays emphasis on introducing the military to the public, the guidelines explain the country's military development and serve as the guiding document for Japanese defense development over the next 10 years.

The previous two guidelines were published by former prime minister Hatoyama Yukio's cabinet in 2010 and Abe in 2013, shortly after the second Abe cabinet started working. If Abe can win the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP)'s presidential race in September, keep his cabinet in power and release the new National Defense Program Guidelines by the end of this year, he will become the only prime minister to have led the formulation of the document twice during peace time.

Compared with the document in 2013, when Abe just assumed power, the new guidelines will explain more of what the Japanese leader wants the military to be.

Restructuring Japan's armed forces and making the country a strong military power is a crucial part of Abe's endeavor to make Japan a "normal" state. To expand the military, he must first of all revise the National Defense Program Guidelines. For that, he must amend Japan's pacifist constitution.

In his August 12 speech, Abe wanted to speed up discussions within the LDP and to work out proposals on constitutional revisions and submit a draft to the Diet during an extraordinary session planned for this coming autumn, according to The Mainichi. That being said, Abe's administration is highly likely to release both National Defense Program Guidelines and the constitutional draft in a short time. In this backdrop, the 2018 defense white paper that paints a negative picture of the situation in East Asia is not an isolated episode. It's more like Abe's propaganda poster for his new military policies.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Peace and Friendship between China and Japan. No matter how the Japanese side diplomatically publicizes the improvement of bilateral relations, in its defense white paper, the country did not consider such improvement as an amelioration of Japan's security environment. The contradiction shows Japan's strategic needs in different areas.

Similarly, no matter how much progress has been made over the North Korean nuclear issue, it will not be mentioned in Japan's defense white paper either, because the document doesn't serve the fact, but promotes the Japanese government's military propaganda.

The author is associate professor at School of History and Cultures, Sichuan University. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn

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