Part One - The Japanese Security Environment
[The security environment surrounding Japan] Questions over sovereignty with regard to the Northern Territories and Takeshima island remain unresolved.
[The U.S] In January of this year President Obama announced the creation of a new national defence policy. Attention will be given to the strategically important region of the Asia-Pacific, and ties with allied nations in that region will be strengthened.
[North Korea] A new order centered on Kim Jong Un established itself within a short period of time. Adjustments have been made at the state level and directives issued to the regions, with expectations that the new order will eventually bring some stability.
[South Korea] Recently South Korea has actively pursued exports of military equipment, putting it within the top 10 arms exporting countries of 2012. It aims to be within the top 8 by 2015.
[China] In relation to the standoff with neighbouring countries over interests, and indications of directives to place high levels of pressure on such countries, there is concern surrounding the future direction China will take. The growth in social disparity, inflation, environmental pollution, and an aging society are all issues capable of destabilising the government and its control. There is a view that the relationship between the Politburo and the PLA is growing more complicated, and that the influence of the military on foreign policy decisions is undergoing a transformation. This is illustrated by the growth in recent years of incidences that highlight the attitude of the Chinese military toward issues surrounding sovereignty and maritime authority. Conversely, it appears that there are limits to the Party's influence on military matters.
It is clear that maritime activities by China have increased, including observation activities in seas close to Japan. Forays by Chinese naval vessels into the Pacific are becoming more common, and the relationship of the PLA to cyber attacks against a myriad of government agencies in various overseas countries have also been confirmed.
[Trends in the cyber sphere] There have been a number of cyber attacks carried out against private industries and government offices involved in the production of Japan's military equipment. Attention therefore needs to be given to threat trends in cyber space.
[Trends in International Terrorism] Although the central apparatus of al Qae'da has weakened, affiliated organisations concentrated in North Africa and the Middle East are growing in influence.
Part Two - Japan's Basic Strategic Policy and Defence Capabilities
[2012 Defence Capability Upgrade] Implement both effective and efficient defence spending aimed at producing dynamic defence capabilities.
Part Three - Japan's Defence Facilities
[The presence of US military assets in Okinawa] The concentration of US military assets and facilities in Okinawa is, according to local residents, placing an enormous burden on them. Every effort must be expended in reducing this burden.
On the face of it, there doesn't appear to be much in this White Paper to distinguish it from its predecessors, apart from the added emphasis given to China and the seeming disparity between the leadership of the CCP and the intentions of the PLA, a point taken up eagerly by those in the conservative press. For its part, the Asahi Shimbun mentioned the sparcity of attention given to the Osprey and its deployment, which the MOD said was a result of publishing issues and not because it was trying to play down the significance of the Osprey (the content of the white paper is decided on at the end of June, hence any post-June edits are apparently not possible) (J).
The transition in the CCP's leadership later this year and the gradual encroachment of PLA influence on Chinese foreign policy are familiar themes to security and defence analysts, although this year marks the first time that a Japanese defence white paper has explicitly drawn a connection between the two. The white paper's assertions were met with criticism in Beijing, which in itself was not unexpected, along with a protest from South Korea over Japanese claims to Takeshima (again, not an unexpected reaction from Seoul) (E). In sum, the white paper was not radical departure from previous MOD policies in relation to neighbouring countries, neither did it signal any significant change in SDF deployments (unlike the 2011 force posture review). It was, in other words, business as usual for the MOD.
This week also saw the appearance before the US Congress House Armed Services Committee Subcommittee on Readiness of CSIS analysts David J. Berteau and Michael Green, whose report into US force posture in the Asia Pacific and possible redeployment of US military assets across the region garnered its fair share of attention, particularly in Australia (E). Apart from a suggestion that the US house a carrier strike-fleet at HMAS Stirling in Western Australia (a suggestion that was quickly ruled out by Australian Defence Minister Stephen Smith), the other point of interest for Australia was the suggestion that the US become more involved in assisting Australia in its attempts to find a replacement for the Collins class submarine, and that Japan should also be involved in this program.
It has been noted elsewhere in this blog that while the suggestion of Japanese involvement in any submarine development program in Australia would most certainly be welcome, such a scenario presents alternative problems that would rule out any immediate Japanese participation (not least of which would be the absence of any precedents for Japanese cooperation with Australia in submarine development, and the non-commercial nature of Japan's own submarine program). If the US was willing to circumvent this, by providing the initial technical expertise and possible equipment loans, that might provide a buffer while Japan arranges to become involved in the program. However such a plan would still have to receive approval from the Diet, which would definitely bring it to the attention of China, who might then start having a quiet word with DFAT officials in Canberra about how this would jeopardise China's pre-existing investments in Australia and frighten the be-jesus out of the Barnett government in Western Australia.
As such, if Australia does want Japanese submarine expertise, it is going to have to wait a while until this becomes a viable option. It might have to be done surreptitiously, although that would risk even greater public ire in Japan at the duplicitous nature of the government in charge and violation of article 9 of the Constituition. Hence while it is certainly an attractive option, promoting Australia-Japan defence ties through cooperation on defence projects, the US might find the task more arduous than anticipated, and needs to examine this in greater detail to see whether it is worth the time and expense involved.