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2010年12月21日 (火)

新防衛大綱 機動性ある自衛隊へ転換急げ


New thinking welcome on defense strategies
The Yomiuri Shimbun (Dec. 20, 2010)
新防衛大綱 機動性ある自衛隊へ転換急げ(12月19日付・読売社説)

The security environment around Japan is growing ominous. To secure peace and safety for the nation under such circumstances, it is necessary to eliminate the remnants of Cold War strategies and construct a more flexible and resilient defense system.

The government has decided on new National Defense Program Guidelines, the first revisions in six years and the third overall since the guidelines were originally worked out in 1976.

The new guidelines call for a paradigm shift from the 1976 emphasis on "fundamental defense" to the modern concept of "dynamic defense capability."

The fundamental defense concept calls for possessing the minimum defense forces necessary for an independent country. The concept has been used as grounds for deploying the Self-Defense Forces evenly over the country, a strategic vestige of the Cold War period.

The dynamic defense capability concept, on the other hand, emphasizes having the capabilities to respond to a variety of threats and contingencies.

The diverse activities of today's SDF include dealing with missiles and new threats such as terrorism, and taking part in international peacekeeping operations.

The days are gone when the SDF could remain a passive organization. Possessing up-to-date tanks, ships and planes alone is not sufficient for deterrent power to work.

Deterrence can work only when the SDF is seen deploying its units to perform various duties. Adoption of such a dynamic defense capability as the concept of the new defense guidelines would be an appropriate policy switch in the dramatically changing security landscape we face today.

China a 'major concern'

The new guidelines refer to China's rapidly increasing defense spending, the stepped-up activities of its naval and air forces and the lack of transparency in its military buildup programs, which the guidelines mention as a "matter of concern for the region and the international community."

China's military emergence is conspicuous. China's publicly announced plan to build aircraft carriers has changed the military balance in the East China Sea. It has been actively ramping up moves to expand its maritime interests, thereby intensifying friction with Southeast Asian nations.

Under such circumstances, it is natural that the new guidelines include beefing up island defenses, such as in the Nansei Islands, which include Okinawa Prefecture and part of Kagoshima Prefecture. It is essential to go ahead with a plan to deploy Ground Self-Defense Force units on Yonagunijima, Japan's western most island.

Referring to North Korea, the guidelines say that country remains "an urgent and serious destabilizing factor." Given that the reclusive communist state conducted two nuclear tests, test-fired ballistic missiles, torpedoed a South Korean warship and shelled the South Korean island of Yeonpyeong, it is indispensable for Japan to bolster military ties with the United States and South Korea.

A new five-year midterm defense buildup program, which was approved by the Cabinet Friday together with the new guidelines, sets the defense budget ceiling for fiscal 2011-15 at about 23.49 trillion yen. In other words, the annual defense budget over the five years will be set at the same level as that of the current fiscal year. This is a significant step as it ends an eight-year period of consecutive annual declines in defense spending.

For years, Japan has been alone in reducing its defense budget while its neighbors China, Russia, South Korea and North Korea, as well as the United States, have been increasing their military spending. This has been a serious problem.

Policies imperfectly balanced

The government must clearly distinguish areas to be enhanced from those to be trimmed if it is to develop a truly effective defense system on a limited budget.

A focal issue in the guidelines was the fixed strength of GSDF personnel. The guidelines say the current 155,000 GSDF members should be reduced by 1,000. But this is hardly sufficient.

If the balance of the SDF had been considered in a comprehensive manner, more GSDF personnel would have been cut in addition to the reduction in tanks and artillery that has been decided upon in the guidelines. At the same time, the fixed strength of personnel in the Air and Maritime Self-Defense Forces and the number of their vessels and aircraft should have been increased.

With such measures, the new concept of dynamic defense capability in the guidelines would have been defined more clearly. We expect the government to address this in drafting budgets for fiscal 2011 and thereafter.

Prime Minister Naoto Kan's government put off clearly calling for a review of the nation's three principles on arms exports in the guidelines because it has asked the Social Democratic Party, a former coalition partner, for cooperation in the Diet and thus has given consideration to the smaller party's policy of opposing any relaxation of the principles prohibiting arms deals with virtually any other countries. We think the government's decision was regrettable.

Meanwhile, it is praiseworthy that the guidelines have left room for future review. The guidelines said that Japan should study measures to keep up with changes in a global environment where joint international development and production of military equipment has become routine among advanced countries. We hope such measures will be studied as soon as possible.

The government should also actively proceed with a review, mentioned in the guidelines, of the five conditions placed on SDF participation in United Nations peacekeeping operations.

The record of GSDF participation in such operations is still short. Tight limits imposed on weapons use, which have always been an impediment to dispatching GSDF troops abroad, should be relaxed immediately in accordance with international standards.

Security council in sight?

The guidelines also stipulate establishment of a new organization at the Prime Minister's Office to coordinate national security policies. Presumably, this would be like a Japanese version of the U.S. National Security Council. A past government led by the Liberal Democratic Party once also submitted bills concerned with establishing such an organization to the Diet.

The organization would be essential for dealing with security issues without interruption and responding quickly to emergency situations. We hope the ruling and opposition parties will discuss a detailed proposal on it in a suprapartisan way to bring such a council into existence as quickly as possible.

The government also should start formulating national security strategy since the guidelines put priority on improvement of defense capabilities.

To secure peace and prosperity for Japan and the rest of the world, what specific goals should be presented and how should the nation's foreign, defense and domestic policies be pursued? The government must compile a comprehensive package of strategies and resolutely carry out each strategy.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 19, 2010)
(2010年12月19日01時12分  読売新聞)


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