Japan’s Bluebook worsens peninsula tension

By Chang Sichun Source:Global Times Published: 2017/5/2 17:58:41

On April 25, the Japanese Foreign Ministry submitted the 2017 Diplomatic Bluebook at a cabinet meeting, which repeatedly stresses the security threat from North Korea. The bluebook pointed out that North Korea's nuclear and ballistic missile tests have reached a new level of threats to Japan and the international community, which Japan will not tolerate. By showing its tough response toward the North Korean nuclear tests and hyping up North Korea's possession of chemical weapons, Japan is trying to realize the following strategic objectives through escalating tensions on the peninsula.

For starters, it is trying to break into the no-go zones of Japan's security policy. After the new security law came into force in March of last year, the Shinzo Abe administration is actively seeking to legitimize its right of collective self-defense and trying to make further breakthroughs in security policy by taking advantage of the North Korean nuclear threat.

Since April, many Japanese cabinet ministers have talked about plans to evacuate the Japanese residents living on the Korea Peninsula once the situation worsens there. Japanese Defense Minister Tomomi Inada has even said that once conflicts break out on the peninsula, Japanese Self-Defense Forces (SDF) could be dispatched there to rescue Japanese nationals.

On April 23, the Maritime Self-Defense Force (MSDF) kicked off joint drills with the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson from the US, which focused on formation tactics and communication. By doing this, Japan is pressuring North Korea, further deepening the MSDF and US military cooperation, showing its military strength and increasing strategic pressure on China at sea.

In addition, Japan, by hyping up the North Korean threats, strengthens its local defense capability. In March, the Liberal Democratic Party put forward a proposal to the Abe administration that Japan should consider developing the capability to strike enemy missile bases if the country is attacked, citing North Korea's missile and nuclear threats. In this case, the new Bluebook hyping up North Korea as a new threat is actually an excuse for Japan to strengthen its military, lift the ban on its ability to attack the enemy bases, transform Japan from a nation of passive defense to one of pre-emptive action, and even create the conditions for revising Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution so as to achieve a major breakthrough in its security policy.

Moreover, Japan is trying to expand its presence and influence. It is seeking to play a leading role in sanctions against North Korea and in peninsula situation to enhance its influence in the world. After North Korea's two nuclear tests last year, Japan urged the UN Security Council to reach a sanction resolution against North Korea as soon as possible. Japan deepened its relationship with the US and South Korea under the pretext of the threats of North Korea. As it is emphasized in the Bluebook, the Japan-South Korea and the Japan-South Korea-US cooperation targeting at North Korea is becoming unprecedentedly important.

After the fifth North Korean nuclear test, Abe immediately had phone talks with then US president Barack Obama and South Korean president Park Geun-Hye, confirming that the three countries would firmly oppose North Korea's nuclear test. Fumio Kishida, Japan's minister for foreign affairs, held telephone conversations with foreign ministers of key countries to call for additional sanctions against North Korea. This year, Abe has had telephone talks several times with US President Donald Trump to discuss the North Korean nuclear issue and the two agreed to strengthen cooperation to prevent North Korea's sixth nuclear test.

Overall, Japan regards North Korea as a new threat in its Bluebook as North Korea's development of nuclear weapons puts Northeast Asia in a very precarious situation. But Japan, following the US to maintain high pressure against North Korea, may escalate the tension on the peninsula. Just like Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said, "as the only way out, dialogue and negotiation also represent the sensible choice for all parties."

The author is an associate research fellow with the Institute of Japanese Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn


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