China’s military buildup spurs Japan to reexamine its defense
By Kenji Yoshimura
The Yomiuri Shimbun
TOKYO — In the face of China’s rapid military buildup, the government plans to formulate a new National Defense Program Outline, which sets out basic guidelines for Japan’s defense policies, in fiscal 2009, according to sources.
The new outline also would incorporate reforms for the scandal-ridden Defense Ministry.
According to sources, the government this year will establish a panel of experts who will discuss defense policies for the next 10 years. Its report will be reflected in the new outline.
The government hopes to have the Cabinet approve the outline by the end of next year, the sources said.
The National Defense Program Outline, which analyzes the international military situation, spells out basic guidelines for the nation’s defense policies and defines the standard of its defense capabilities.
The outline, first released in 1976 during the Cold War era, has been revised to incorporate changes in the international security situation. It was revised in 1995 after the end of the Cold War, and again in 2004, when the issues of ballistic missiles and terrorist threats became pressing matters.
The government had been considering making minor changes to the 2004 outline next fiscal year, when it would review the document under a policy to revisit the guidelines every five years.
However, it decided to formulate a new outline, as Japan’s security situation could be considerably affected by China’s military buildup and other factors, they said.
China has been rapidly procuring state-of-the-art fighters and submarines. The pace of the Chinese buildup is far beyond what Japan initially expected.
Also, the Russian military, which was weakened considerably after the end of the Cold War, has shown signs of revival on the back of robust economic growth.
Furthermore, the government is considering a major overhaul of the Self-Defense Forces as part of reform of the Defense Ministry, which has been adversely affected by bribery scandals, the leaking of sensitive information and the collision in February between a Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyer and a fishing boat that left two fishermen missing.
The current outline maintains the SDF unit formation from the Cold War years. However, the government wants to include plans to overhaul the Defense Ministry and the SDF in the new outline, the sources said.
The panel of experts the government is planning to set up likely will be a private advisory body under the prime minister.
After the panel drafts a report on the new outline, the government plans to discuss the document with the new U.S. administration to be inaugurated in January.
Meanwhile, the government will draft a new midterm defense buildup plan in fiscal 2009 as scheduled.
At one point, the government was considering curtailing by a year the current plan for fiscal 2005-09, but decided not to as the new defense outline would be formulated next fiscal year, the sources said.