24 February 2011

What is in Japan's New Plans for Defense?

So what does Japan's new defense reorganization look like?

The December 2010 adoption of Tokyo's new defense guidelines - the so-called National Defense Program Guidelines (NDPG) first adopted in 1976 and subsequently updated in 1995 and 2004 - transform Japan's security and defense policies from 'basic' to 'flexible and dynamic', in essence meaning that Japan now reserves the right to upgrade its military capabilities, increasing its defense expenditures beyond one percent of GDP - a self-imposed limit that has served as a guiding principle of Japanese defense policy for decades.
For an allegedly 'pacifist' country equipped with a constitution that does not allow for the maintenance of armed forces, it is remarkable that Japan should now contribute to regional stability by "increasing the activity" of its defense hardware and "clearly demonstrating its advanced capabilities", according to the guidelines.
Although Tokyo will not (at least not yet) equip itself with 'real' offensive military power projection capabilities, the defense guidelines are clearly aimed at equipping Japan's military capabilities to react to crisis scenarios that go beyond the defense of Japanese territory on the Japanese 'mainland.'
In reaction, mainland China's policymakers expressed little concern for the possible implications of the defense guidelines for actual Japanese defense and security policies, instead stressing that Japan's warnings about China's military rise were misguided. The assertion that "China's military development and the lack of transparency are matters of concern" was dismissed as "irresponsible" and "totally groundless" by the state-controlled China Daily. To be sure, China's recent public announcement that it would speed up the development of an aircraft carrier fleet (to be deployed in the East China Sea) confirmed that Japan's concerns might be anything but groundless and irresponsible, at least from the standpoint of Japan's defense planners.
The defense guidelines will be accompanied by a re-structuring of Japan's armed forces, including a very noteworthy upgrade of the country's naval and coast guard capabilities. Until 2012, 21 new patrol ships and seven new reconnaissance jets will be added to the Japan Coast Guard fleet to be dispatched to where the (potential) 'action' is: the East China Sea.
In addition, Japan's navy will increase the number of its AEGIS destroyers from four to six. AEGIS destroyers are equipped with antimissile systems and are at least in theory able to shoot down incoming North Korean Nodong missiles aimed at downtown Tokyo in less than 10 minutes. The number of Japanese submarines will also be increased from 16 to 22, while the number of tanks will be reduced from 600 to 400.

By: Brant

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