Japan’s Threat Assessment Identifies Russia, China And North Korea As Its Main Security Concerns

japan flag

Japan in its first annual defense report issued since the war in Ukraine mentioned Russia and China’s deepening military cooperation that has included joint air and navy drills is raising security concerns in the region.

The defence white paper approved by Prime Minister Kishida’s government identifies China, Russia and North Korea as its main security concerns.

Rivalries Are Clear

“The political, economic and military rivalries between nations are clear, and the challenge posed to the international order is a global issue,” the white paper said.

In the report released Friday, the Defense Ministry detailed renewed concerns about the security of Taiwan, which China sees as territory that must be reclaimed.

The section doubled in length from last year to 10 pages and includes a description of the island’s attempts to bolster its defenses against any attack by China, despite falling ever further behind the mainland in terms of military prowess.

“Changes to the status quo by force are a problem for the whole world, so we will watch related developments with increased vigilance, while cooperating with our ally the U.S., friendly countries and the international community,” the ministry said.

The Defense Ministry detailed joint drills conducted by Russia and China in the waters and airspace surrounding Japan in an expanded two-page section on military cooperation between two of its nearest neighbors.

China and Russia undertook joint air exercises near Japan and South Korea as U.S. President Joe Biden wound down a visit to the U.S. allies in May.

“We can see a deepening of military cooperation and this will have a direct effect on the security situation surrounding our country,” the ministry said in a summary of the report. “We must continue to pay close attention to these developments with concern.”

In a foreword to the 500-page report, Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi said he was full of anger and sorrow over the war in Ukraine, and reiterated a warning that it was not a matter for Europe alone, but a sign of strategic competition between nations that had particular implications for the existing order in the Indo-Pacific region.

Japan has thrown its support behind Ukraine, imposing a series of sanctions on Russia, while providing non-lethal military equipment to President Zelenskiy’s government.

Kishida has also sought to bolster his country’s security by strengthening ties with a range of countries, including by this year becoming the first Japanese premier to attend a NATO summit.

Following Kishida’s vow to drastically upgrade Japan’s defenses, including a substantial increase in spending, the ministry laid out no target for spending, but offered international context. Its military budget accounts for a lower percentage of GDP than any other country in the G7, at 0.95% for the fiscal year ending in March, compared with almost 2% for the UK and more than 3% for the U.S.

While the ruling Liberal Democratic Party has called for Japan to match the 2% budget target set by NATO, the government has yet to endorse that goal. Japan’s defense spending has been rising gradually for a decade, but the recent slump in the yen will mean its money doesn’t go as far.

Japan’s defence paper also warned of vulnerable technology supply chains, in its annual defence white paper.

The report sets out the government’s security concerns as it prepares the defence ministry budget request due next month, aiming to build public support for an unprecedented hike in military funding that the ruling party aims to double over the next decade or so.

It also sets the stage for a year-end national security review expected to call for the acquisition of longer-range strike missiles, strengthened space and cyber capabilities, and tighter controls over access to technology.

Defence minister Kishi last month had described Japan as being on a front line surrounded by nuclear-armed actors.

Most Japanese appear to share government concerns over Japan’s deteriorating security environment, with recent opinion polls putting support for higher defence spending at more than 50%.

Kishida’s ruling LDP, which has pledged to double military spending to 2% of GDP, gained seats in national elections for upper house lawmakers this month.

A 2% target would bring Tokyo in line with a minimum commitment set by NATO members, and given the size of its economy, would make the pacifist nation the world’s No.3 in total defence spending after the U.S. and China.

The white paper cited comparative OECD estimates of defence spending for Japan and eight other countries, showing Japan at 0.95% of GDP, the U.S. at 3.12%, South Korea at 2.57%, nearby China at 1.2%, and neighboring Russia at 2.73%.

Japan’s spending as a percentage of GDP is lower than all other G7 nations, as well as Australia and South Korea, it said.

“Spending per capita in South Korea, Britain, France, and Germany is two to three times as much,” the document said.

Japan, South Korea Agree To Improve Ties

The foreign ministers of South Korea and Japan reaffirmed Monday the importance of bilateral ties and the three-way relationship with the U.S. as they renewed efforts to mend relations amid the war in Ukraine and other global tensions.

Park Jin, South Korea’s top diplomat, and his Japanese counterpart Yoshimasa Hayashi agreed to work together on the nuclear threat from North Korea and on the need to resolve a dispute over Japan’s colonial-era forced mobilization of Korean laborers, according to the two foreign ministries.

The countries’ ties have been strained mostly over historical issues, including forced labor leading up to and during World War II.

At the heart of the dispute are South Korean court rulings in 2018, which ordered two Japanese companies, Nippon Steel and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, to compensate forced Korean laborers. The Japanese companies have refused to comply with the rulings, and the former laborers and their supporters responded by pushing for the forced sale of corporate assets of Nippon Steel and Mitsubishi.

The ministers shared a view that the disputes over the forced laborers must be resolved at an early date, the South Korean Foreign Ministry statement said. It quoted Park as saying South Korea would seek a resolution of the dispute before the sales of the two Japanese companies are made in South Korea.

According to the Japanese statement, Hayashi told Park that both sides need to build a constructive relationship based on the normalization of relations in 1965. Tokyo has long maintained that all compensation issues had been settled by then.

Since taking office in March, South Korea’s new conservative government led by President Yoon Suk Yeol has been pushing to improve ties with Japan and bolster a trilateral security cooperation with Washington and Tokyo to better deal with North Korean nuclear threats.

At the start of the talks in Tokyo, Park and Hayashi bumped elbows and posed for cameras at the official guest house as they conversed softly in English. Both have attended schools in the U.S., and Park has also studied in Japan.

The visit, the first by a South Korean foreign minister since November 2019, comes after the assassination of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, considered an influential figure in shaping Japan’s foreign policy.

Park expressed his condolences on Abe’s death. Park is scheduled to stay in Japan through Wednesday, and may meet Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.

Park and Hayashi had also met ahead of the South Korea presidential inauguration in Seoul in May, as well as in Bali, Indonesia, for the Group of 20 meeting earlier this month.

The South Korean Foreign Ministry in July launched consultations with lawyers and activists representing the Korean forced laborers and other experts to collect opinions on how to resolve the dispute.

Besides painful history, the two nations also share a long-running territorial dispute over islands that are controlled by Seoul but also claimed by Japan. Tokyo calls them Takeshima and South Korea calls them Dokdo.

U.S. President Biden’s administration has tried to bring the two Asian democracies to work closer together on security and regional issues amid the war in Ukraine and tensions including threats from North Korea and saber-rattling from China.

North Korea this year stepped up missile and artillery tests in what is seen as an attempt to pressure Washington and Seoul to relax international sanctions against Pyongyang.

Park also expressed support for Tokyo’s efforts to bring back Japanese abducted by North Korea decades ago, the Japanese Foreign Ministry said.

About 20 years ago, North Korea reversed years of denial and acknowledged it had kidnapped Japanese citizens and returned some to Japan. But Japan believes more are still in North Korea.

China To Extend Anti-dumping Duties On Steel Product From Japan, South Korea and EU

China will extend anti-dumping duties on grain oriented flat-rolled electrical steel imported from Japan, South Korea, and the EU, the country’s ministry of commerce said on Friday.

The duties will be extended for five years beginning from July 23, it said in a statement.

The anti-dumping duty rates are set at 39% to 45.7% for Japanese firms including JFE Steel Corp and Nippon Steel Corp, 37.3% for Korean companies and 46.3% for EU firms.

China, the world’s top steel producer launched an anti-dumping investigation in June last year into grain oriented flat-rolled electrical steel from Japan, South Korea and the EU following the expiry of tariffs in place for the past five years.

The tariffs were reinstated during the year-long investigation.

The move followed a petition by steelmakers China Baoshan Iron and Steel and a unit of Beijing Shougang which argued that ending the tariffs could lead to further dumping, hurting the domestic steel sector.

Oriented electrical steel or oriented silicon steel is used in transformers and is more expensive than carbon steel.


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