The decision taken, Friday, December 18, by the Japanese government to equip the navy with two destroyers equipped with the Aegis anti-missile defense system and to acquire long-range hypersonic anti-ship missiles, does not fully satisfy the Forces of self-defense (FAD, official name of the Japanese army), worried about the rapid rise in Chinese power. These materials reinforce the Japanese “shield” but do not meet the expectations of an army in full transformation and which wants “offensive” equipment allowing it, for example, to strike a missile launch pad in enemy territory, before its launch. .
The question remains sensitive in a country attached to pacifism and the renunciation of war enshrined in article 9 of its Constitution. Politically, the government does not want to offend the very pacifist Komei Party, a partner of the Liberal Democratic Party in the ruling coalition.
Created in 1954, the FAD defends an island territory surrounded by Chinese, Russian and South Korean neighbors, with whom Japan maintains territorial disputes. They do so in cooperation with the American army, which maintains 57,000 soldiers in the archipelago, as part of the bilateral security alliance of 1960.
Today, ADFs face a rapidly changing environment characterized by “A strengthening of resources and an intensification of military activities” and of “Gray areas associated with territorial, sovereign and economic interests”, says the Defense White Paper 2020. The tenure of US President Donald Trump has raised questions about the United States’ engagement in the region.
North Korean threat
The threat which emanated from the USSR in the north during the Cold War now comes from North Korea and its missiles, and especially from China. F-15s take off almost daily to counter incursions by Chinese fighter planes into Japanese airspace. At sea, the Japanese coast guards, supported by the navy, intervene against their Chinese counterparts who are teasing the waters around the disputed islets Senkaku-Diaoyu, in the South China Sea. In 2019, 1,097 Chinese vessels were identified in contiguous Japanese waters, up from 607 in 2018.
“The Chinese are doing everything to convince that they are behaving aggressively”, notes Robert Dujarric of the Institute for Contemporary Asian Studies (ICAS) at Temple University in Japan. “When the head of Chinese diplomacy, Wang Yi, came to Tokyo in November, he was very firm on the Senkaku”, confirms Narushige Michishita, vice-president of the National Institute of Political Sciences, who does not hesitate to compare the Chinese regime and the militarist Japan of the 1930s, with leaders locked in an aggressive logic, and from whom to deviate “Akin to weakness”.
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