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2009年7月24日 (金)

防衛白書 脅威を直視し防衛力を高めよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun(Jul. 24, 2009)
Face up to threats, boost defense capability
防衛白書 脅威を直視し防衛力を高めよ(7月24日付・読売社説)

The security environment surrounding Japan gives no ground for optimism. It is vital that the nation steadily strengthen its defense capability by squarely facing up to threats posed by neighboring nations and a myriad of unstable factors.

The Defense of Japan 2009 white paper, which recently was approved by the Cabinet, stated that North Korea's nuclear test in May and the growing capability of its ballistic missiles are grave threats to this country's security.

The white paper stressed that these elements cannot be tolerated because they significantly jeopardize the peace and security of not only Northeast Asia but also the entire international community. We are not surprised by the recognition of this threat.

The white paper said it is difficult to completely rule out the possibility that North Korea will, in the relatively near future, succeed in downsizing a nuclear weapon to the extent that it could be loaded as a warhead on a ballistic missile.

Japan must continue its diplomatic efforts to pressure North Korea under the U.N. Security Council sanctions resolutions in cooperation with China, South Korea and the United States.


Keep eye on China, N. Korea

At the same time, as the white paper pointed out, the nation has to be prepared for the unexpected. It would be folly to forget that the reported health problems of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il and the issue of who will succeed him could destabilize the regime in Pyongyang.

It is extremely important to fortify the Japan-U.S. alliance, thereby strengthening its military deterrence. The nation must not neglect to stay alert to and monitor the activities of North Korea, and should steadily proceed with deploying a missile defense system.

At the same time, the nation should remain wide awake to China's rapid military buildup and expanded scope of activities.

China's defense spending has seen double-digit growth for 21 consecutive years. The white paper said Beijing is working to acquire, maintain and protect its own interests in marine resources as well as to protect its sea lanes, in addition to its national defense and preventing Taiwan's independence.

In particular, the white paper expressed caution over China's increasing activities in waters near Japan. This point was epitomized by the four Chinese naval vessels that went around Japan in October by passing through the Tsugaru Strait, going southward in the Pacific Ocean and then sailing between the main island of Okinawa Prefecture and Miyakojima island.


Budget considerations

The Ground Self-Defense Force is switching its strategy from focusing on contingencies that could affect the northern part of Japan, to an area centered on the southwestern part of the nation. Next spring, the 1st Combined Brigade stationed in Okinawa Prefecture will be upgraded and reorganized, which will entail increasing its personnel from 1,800 to 2,100.

We think it is important that this upgrade--and other similar changes--should be promoted in a planned revision of the National Defense Program Guidelines due by the end of this year.

The United States, South Korea, India and Australia are increasing their defense budgets, as are China, North Korea and Russia. By contrast, Japan has trimmed its defense budget by between 0.1 percent to 1 percent annually since fiscal 2003.

If Japan continues pruning its defense budget even while a neighboring country conducts a nuclear test and launches missiles that fly over this country, it could send the wrong signal that Japan takes its national security lightly.

While seeking efficiency in equipment procurement is one thing, we wonder if now might be the time to halt the gradual erosion of Japan's defense budget.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 24, 2009)
(2009年7月24日01時22分  読売新聞)


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