Abe creates boogeyman to justify buildup

Updated: 2013-09-04 02:14

By Cao Hong (China Daily)

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The administration of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe seems to be looking for a straw man. And an imaginary foe has turned out to be a justification for Japan's military buildup.

Speaking to defense ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Brunei on Thursday, Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said that his country's self-defense forces should have a marine function to defend "remote islands" due to provocations from a neighboring country. Also, he said, Japan should study the capability to launch pre-emptive strikes against enemy military bases.

Onodera was the first member of the Abe Cabinet to publicly voice Japan's attempt to develop the capability to attack enemies pre-emptively with cruise missiles.

Less than a year since Abe became Japanese prime minister, his new defense strategy is taking shape, and it is moving away from the country's defense-only policy.

Japan's Mainichi Shimbun newspaper warned that proposals should not go uncommented on when any new Japanese amphibious forces could be used in the name of "collective self-defense", or assisting an ally under armed attack.

But the Japanese government has come up with policies to strengthen its defense capabilities.

Japan's Defense Ministry applied for a fiscal 2014 budget of 4.89 trillion yen ($49.14 billion), or a 2.9 percent increase from 2013. Part of the money will go to a new land-sea operations preparation unit in Japan's ground self-defense force, with an eye on far-flung islands, including China's Diaoyu Islands. The ministry has made a request for 1.3 billion yen to station a group of E-2C airborne early-warning aircraft at the Naha air base in Okinawa.

In its news conference on the budget request, the Japanese Defense Ministry claimed that it is imperative to maintain superiority in the air as well as on the sea to respond effectively to attacks on islands.

Taro Aso, Japan's finance minister and deputy prime minister, said recently that increased defense spending was "a clear signal of our determination to defend" the Diaoyu Islands.

Japan's coast guard is requesting a grant of 193.3 billion yen, an increase of 13 percent, for the next fiscal year to build new patrol ships and piers. It plans to build 10 cutting-edge ships and renovate two vessels capable of hosting helicopters as a backup in case a team dedicated to the security of the islands is unable to deal with a contingency on its own, coast guard officials said.

For the first time, Japan will send its force to the biannual Rim of the Pacific naval exercises off Hawaii in 2014, saying it is preparing to deal with Chinese ships patrolling the Diaoyu Islands.

Japan's maritime self-defense force has participated in the RIMPAC exercise since 1980.

State Councilor Yang Jiechi announced in June that China, at the invitation of the United States, will attend the RIMPAC exercise in 2014. Yang made the announcement after the June 7-8 summit between President Xi Jinping and his US counterpart, Barack Obama, at the Sunnylands estate in Rancho Mirage, California.