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2015年7月23日 (木)

(社説)防衛白書 法制を急ぐ必要はない

--The Asahi Shimbun, July 22
EDITORIAL: Defense white paper shows that security legislation can wait
(社説)防衛白書 法制を急ぐ必要はない

Where, really, was the urgency to railroad national security bills through the Lower House in the absence of public support?

This was the question we had to ask anew upon reading the Defense Ministry's 2015 white paper, submitted to the Cabinet on July 21.

The annual report serves to show the direction of Japan's defense policy for both domestic and overseas readerships. Predictably, this year's main topic was Japan's relations with China.

With regard to the activities of Chinese government vessels in waters around the disputed Senkaku Islands, the white paper stated, "There is a trend toward routinization, and it is possible that rules such as guidelines on the operation of the vessels have been set in place." The report also noted that "larger vessels are coming into use."

According to the Defense Ministry, Chinese government vessels are entering Japanese waters at regular intervals of three times a month--early in the month, mid-month and late in the month. The usual pattern is that two or three ships would arrive in the morning, and then leave after about two hours.

This suggests that the ships could be under Beijing's control to some degree.

The Japan Coast Guard is responsible for dealing with Chinese government vessels in Japanese waters. Given that larger vessels are coming into use, discussions of a nonmilitary nature are called for, such as with respect to prioritized allocation of the defense budget to the Japan Coast Guard.

As for clarifying the division of roles between the Japan Coast Guard and the Maritime Self-Defense Force, a package of maritime policing bills, sponsored by opposition parties, warrants discussion. However, there has been little progress on this to date.

What the nation needs most is a crisis management policy to prevent accidental military encounters. It can be appreciated that Tokyo-Beijing talks are advancing on the early opening of a communication mechanism, such as a special hotline, between officials in the naval and air forces of the two nations. In addition, creating an environment where the leaders of the two nations can talk candidly to each other is vital to the establishment of peace and stability in the region.

While China's military expansion and aggressive maritime advancement cannot be overlooked, nothing can be resolved by just harping on about the perceived threat posed by China. Diplomatic efforts to ease the tensions are urgently needed.

Another major security-related challenge concerns extremist Islamic State militants and other international terrorist organizations. The white paper stated: "A situation has arisen that can never be considered irrelevant to Japan."

But it is generally agreed that there are limits to the effectiveness of military action against acts of international terrorism that are not state sponsored. In this sense, there is no denying that the nation's proposed security legislation, which leans heavily toward the use of armed force, comes across as "behind the times."

Japan is in its element when it makes nonmilitary contributions such as measures to combat poverty and contagious diseases and providing education. Japan definitely needs to hold more realistic discussions on how best to make use of its "pacifist nation" brand that has been cultivated over the last 70 years since the end of World War II.

The defense white paper is read closely by China and other neighboring nations. We would like it to become more of a vehicle for conveying constructive messages that will foster greater mutual trust with each nation.


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