'Containing China' a Japanese strategy

Updated: 2013-12-12 01:05

By Zhang Yunbi (China Daily)

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Draft of Tokyo's new defense program calls for more early warning and surveillance.

Japan is trying to justify attempts to break away from its pacifist Constitution and build up its military by fanning the so-called China threat, experts said after Japan released the final draft of its national security strategy on Wednesday.

In the draft, Japan vowed countermeasures against what it calls "China's attempts to change the status quo with force" in the East China and South China seas, according to the summary of the draft issued by Japanese news agency Jiji Press.

Lu Yaodong, director of the department of Japanese diplomacy of the Institute of Japanese Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the strategy included "containing China" in the core missions of Japan's new National Security Council, established a week ago.

"The Abe Cabinet is now bold enough to label China as a strategic target because it has harvested enough excuses from tensions over China's Diaoyu Islands and China's newly established air defense identification zone," Lu said.

Beijing said on Wednesday that it is unreasonable for Tokyo to say that China's decision to establish the East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone last month is changing the status quo.

"It is not others, but Japan that made provocations" in the East China Sea, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said.

The draft of Japan's National Defense Program Guidelines outlines military policy for the next decade and calls for Japan to set up intelligence, early warning and surveillance activity to defend Japanese sea and air territory.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said in a meeting with security experts on Wednesday that the two pacts — to be approved at a cabinet meeting on Dec 17 — will be "historic documents that shape our country's national security".

The draft also said Japan will review its self-imposed ban on weapons exports, a move Bloomberg said shows that "Japan will seek to make its arms industry competitive globally".

Shi Yongming, a researcher of Asia-Pacific studies at the China Institute of International Relations, said Japan is using China to eliminate self-imposed legislative restrictions on revising its pacifist Constitution and expanding its military.

"Japan is projecting China as an enormous threat and campaigning itself as a 'major victim' to bluff people both domestically and overseas," Shi said.

Kyodo News Agency reported on Wednesday that the Abe administration will implement a defense program next year covering the next five years.

Japan's annual defense budget grew this year after a decade of decline.

Tokyo plans to set up an amphibious unit designed to take back the remote islands in case of invasion, and also plans to procure unmanned surveillance planes and establish an E-2C early warning aircraft unit at the Naha base in southwestern Japan, according to the latest defense plans.

Abe's bid to stoke Japan's slumbering economy "has given him political capital to push his long-cherished aim of also rehabilitating Japan's military, which under the post-war pacifist Constitution is restricted to defense only", Agence France-Presse said.

By showing muscle in the islands dispute and making right wing remarks, Abe is making progress in lifting the constitutional bans, said Liu Jiangyong, an expert on Japanese studies at Tsinghua University.

Liu warned that "Japan is also siding with countries including the United States and Australia to step up pressure on China".

"Japan is seeking stronger support from outside the country to speed up a military buildup, strive for more influence in the region and share more burdens in Washington's rebalancing strategy," Shi said.

Japan will also bolster its overall capability to respond to missile attacks as the Democratic People's Republic of Korea improves its ballistic missile technology, its defense guideline draft said.

Cai Hong in Tokyo

contributed to this story.