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HOME  > Past issues  > 2020 July 15 - 21  > In 2020 Defense white paper, gov’t still sticks to military buildup even amid coronavirus pandemic
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2020 July 15 - 21 [POLITICS]

In 2020 Defense white paper, gov’t still sticks to military buildup even amid coronavirus pandemic

July 16, 2020

Akahata editorial

The Defense Ministry recently published its annual white paper, “Defense of Japan 2020”. The document describes the spread of COVID-19 as a security challenge and devotes a good deal of space to explain the issue. It criticizes China by stating that the country keeps attempting to unilaterally change the status quo in the East China Sea with the tacit threat of force at a time when international cooperation is called for amid the coronavirus pandemic. On the other hand, concerning the U.S., which turns its back on international joint efforts to tackle the coronavirus crisis, the annual report stresses that Washington gives top priority to the security of the Indo-Pacific region in order to strengthen deterrence against China. The Abe government has thus reaffirmed that it will stand up to China by further strengthening the Japan-U.S. alliance and the capability of the Self-Defense Forces, clearly showing that it still believes in security by military buildup.

Strengthening of Japan-US alliance to stand up to China

This year’s white paper points out that the coronavirus pandemic affects not only social and economic activities throughout the world but also each nation’s military activities, adding that if the current situation continues for a long time, it would have various impacts on national security of countries. Apparently with China in mind, the annual report states, “The COVID-19 pandemic may expose and intensify strategic competition among countries intending to create international and regional orders more preferable to themselves and to expand their influence. We need to closely watch such moves with great concern as security issues.”

Citing that Chinese official ships repeatedly intruded into Japanese territorial waters near the Senkaku Islands and intimidated Japanese fishing vessels by getting very close to them, the annual report states, “China has relentlessly continued unilateral attempts to change the status quo by coercion in the sea area around the Senkaku Islands, leading to a grave matter of concern.”

Regarding the United States, the WP points out that the country ranks China “at the top of its list of priorities and places the greatest emphasis on the security of the Indo-Pacific region to strengthen deterrence against China.” The WP states that the U.S. military is strengthening its presence in the Indo-Pacific region as shown, for example, by the stationing of F-35B fighter jets at the U.S. Iwakuni base in Yamaguchi Prefecture and by the presence of the USS America, an amphibious assault ship enhanced for F-35B operations, which is homeported at the U.S. Sasebo base in Nagasaki Prefecture.

Regarding the Japan-U.S. alliance, the WP mentions that the existing bilateral security treaty has marked its 60th anniversary while highlighting that "it has become more important than ever before for Japan to further strengthen its ties with the Unites States in order to ensure national security." The national security-related legislation or war laws makes it possible for Japan to exercise the right to collective self-defense abroad. The WP suggests that the Japan-U.S. alliance which has already been cemented under this legislation be further enhanced, and that Japan's Self-Defense Forces setup and their capability be also improved as an indispensable prerequisite to achieve this end. This is very serious.

The WP also touches on the topic of the JSDF plan to purchase F-35B fighter aircraft from the United States and to renovate "Izumo"-class escort ships into aircraft carriers for these F-35Bs. Using "the protection of the Japanese territorial islands" as a pretext, vertical takeoff and landing V-22 Osprey aircraft and long-distance cruise missiles will be introduced to Japan in conjunction with the strengthening of the U.S. presence. It has become clear that all these moves are taking place to counter China's influence.

Fundamental shift is needed

The world is now being hit by the coronavirus pandemic. Under this situation, China keeps committing hegemonic acts in the East China Sea and South China Sea, posing a major obstacle to international cooperation. Such acts of hegemony should be severely criticized. However, reacting to this by means of military buildups would only bring about a vicious cycle of armed conflicts and a limitless arms race.

The ongoing coronavirus crisis has exposed the failure of neoliberalism which cuts back on social welfare spending. Linked with this neoliberal policy, arms buildups have been promoted. Is it right to maintain this policy line? A fundamental shift in policy is needed.
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