Japan defense report stresses growing threat from China

Chinese Navy guided-missile destroyer Xian steams in the Pacific Ocean during Rim of the Pacific 2016.


By SETH ROBSON | STARS AND STRIPES Published: August 2, 2016

YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — China’s military build-up in an “increasingly severe” Far East security environment is a major focus of Japan’s annual defense report.

The 484-page white paper, approved Tuesday by the nation’s cabinet, devotes more words to China than other regional powers like North Korea and Russia.

“There has … been a noticeable trend among neighboring countries to modernize and reinforce their military capabilities and to intensify their military activities,” says the report, which details Chinese activities in the South China Sea where it is involved in territorial disputes with a number of Southeast Asian nations.

Last month, an international court ruled against China’s claims to artificial islands on which it is building military facilities near the Philippines in the sea where $5 trillion in global trade transits annually. China’s state-aligned Global Times newspaper described the ruling as a “piece of trash.”

Chinese incursions into waters around the Japanese-administered Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, including one in June by a Chinese naval ship, are also detailed in the report.

“It was the first case by Chinese Naval combatant ship to enter that contiguous zone,” the white paper says.

Also in June, and for the first time in 12 years, a Chinese intelligence ship sailed in Japanese waters near Kuchinoerabu island, according to the report.

Japan’s Air Self-Defense Force scrambled jets 873 times in fiscal year 2015, including 571 sorties against Chinese aircraft, up by 107 against the Chinese the previous year, the report says.

The paper also notes that China’s defense budget has recorded double-digit annual growth consistently since 1989.

“China is currently carrying out reforms of the [People’s Liberation Army] which some see as being the largest in the country’s history,” the report says. “Recently the reforms have taken place at a rapid pace.”

A section on North Korea says the regime, which conducted its fourth nuclear test in January and sent a satellite into orbit the following month, might be able to produce a nuclear weapon small enough to launch on a long-range missile.

“North Korea’s nuclear weapons development is a grave and imminent threat to the area including our country and international security,” the report says. “It simply cannot be accepted as it seriously affects peace and stability.”

The paper also notes President Barack Obama’s visit to Hiroshima in May, describing it as an “extremely important historical opportunity, which will boost international momentum again for a world without nuclear weapons.”

Stars and Stripes staffer Hana Kusumoto contributed to this report.

Twitter: @SethRobson1

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