Hudson Institute Researcher Dr. Satoru NAGAO: “Japan’s new National Security Strategy can be interpreted as part of the Pioneering Strategy that the United States is building against China.”

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    How do you find Japan’s new proactive foreign policy?

    Japan published National Security Strategy, National Defense Strategy and Defense procurement plan. Since Mr. Shinzo Abe was sworn in as prime minister second time in 2012, Japan established National Security Secretariat in the government and made first National Security Strategy that is published in 2013 first time. 9 years later, Japan has decided to publish second National Security Strategy along with National Defence Strategy and Defense Program Plan. Compare with last National Security Strategy, these documents clearly indicated Japan’s honest opinion against the threat and Japan has decided their security strategy drastically.

    Firstly and most importantly, National Security Strategy identified which country are threats and friends for Japan. Japan’s way of writing indicates that the top of the list is always a priority. Japan choose three countries as challengers against Japan. The top is China, the second is North Korea and the third one is Russia. In 2013, the previous National Security Strategy mentioned North Korea first and China second, despite thus PM Abe published article “Asia’s Democratic Security Diamond” which claimed forming QUAD to deal with China. This means that the Japanese government except PM Abe still hesitated to call China as a top challenger for Japan in 2013. But in 2022, Japan decided to identify China is the priority.

    The interesting part is in the following sentences. Except for the US, both National Security Strategy and National Defence Strategy clearly listed up the friends and allies. And the top is Australia, the second is India, the third are the UK, France, Germany and Italy or South Korea. In the past, South Korea’s status was higher. But now, Australia and India are a priority for Japan, the documents said. In case of India, India and Japan is planning joint fighter jets exercises. And there is a possibility that India will import Japan’s UNICORN for their naval ships. Ministry of Defence of both countries has already started joint arms development project of unmanned vehicles.

    Secondly, these documents clearly indicated that Japan will possess counterstrike capability. Indeed, this is related to India. Indeed, India, Japan, and Australia have recently been seeking strike capabilities at the same time. In July 2020, Australia announced its intent to possess long-range strike capability. Under the AUKUS, Australia will possess nuclear submarines with long-range cruise missiles. Australian conventional submarines will equip Tomahawk cruise missiles, too. India also deployed supersonic cruise missiles in the India-China border area. India also tests missiles with hypersonic missile warheads. Indeed, Taiwan, Vietnam, the Philippines, and South Korea are also increasing their arsenal to strike.

    The long-range strike capability is effective when these countries face China’s territorial expansion. For example, if both India and Japan possess long-range strike capabilities, this combined capability makes China defend multiple fronts. Even if China decides to expand its territories along the India-China border, China still needs to expend a certain amount of its budget and military assets to defend itself against Japan(with the US and Australia in this case).

    In addition, to deal with the route China is using to expand its territories, long-range strike capability is useful. If the straits or other choke points are under the range of India-Japan-US-Australia’s strike capability, China cannot have confidence in using these routes. This situation is similar in the mountainous India-China border area, India can attack strategic bridges, tunnels, or airports anytime by using missiles. This reduces China’s confidence in using these strategic routes.

    Therefore, this counterstrike capability is multi-beneficial for India, Japan, the US, Australia and other allies and partners.

    Thirdly, these documents clearly mention that Japan will increase ODA for a strategic purpose. In addition, the document mentions, “for the purpose of deepening security cooperation with like-minded countries, apart from ODA for the economic and social development of developing countries and other purposes, a new cooperation framework for the benefit of armed forces and other related organizations will be established.” This document clearly mentioned that Japan will be a security provider for countries that face China’s territorial expansion.

    Indeed, this is an important promoter for the India-Japan arms trade. When India planned to import Japan’s US-2 amphibious planes, the price was too expensive. But Japan cannot use ODA to discount. If there is a new cooperation framework, there is a possibility the price will change.

    In addition, currently, India needs infrastructure projects in the border area with China. But Japan cannot use ODA to support infrastructure in Arunachal Pradesh or Ladakh because ODA cannot use for military purposes. However, if there is a new cooperation framework, there is a possibility that Japan can provide heavy machines to build roads in this region even if these are for military purposes.

    Therefore, these new documents show a big potential of India-Japan and QUAD cooperation with the US and Australia. The more China escalates the situation, the more the QUAD should become institutionalized and cohesive.

    How can Japan’s increase in military and defense expenditures find a response in the region? Could this situation create a security dilemma in the region?

    That is a big problem because Japan lack enough money to do that. In 2010, GDP of Japan and China were nearly same. But in 2020, China has 3 times bigger GDP than Japan. In 2022, China has nearly 5 times bigger GDP than Japan. If Japan tried to find budget to maintain military balance with China, it is very serious situation.

    Therefore, for Japan, cooperation with other countries is a key element. But without the efforts of Japan themselves, no countries in this region will help Japan. Japan must show their strong will and efforts to do it. And in this case, Japan learned from Ukraine’s strong will.

    How can Japan’s foreign policy, which has turned into a proactive structure with rising defense expenditures, affect the alliance it has established with the United States of America (USA) and South Korea in the region? Could a disintegration occur within the alliance?

    In my analysis, Japan’s counter strike capability is a part of the US strategy. For a long time, Japan, and Australia have depended on US strike capabilities. For example, Japan possesses missile defense capabilities to intercept an enemy’s missile but not the capability to strike the missile launch pad of an enemy.

    Why are all these countries planning to improve their strike capabilities? The offense-defense combination with long-range strike capability is a more effective strategy than a defense-only strategy when these countries face China’s territorial expansion. For example, if both Japan and India possess long-range strike capabilities, this combined capability makes China defend multiple fronts. Even if China decides to expand its territories along the India-China border, China still needs to expend a certain amount of its budget and military force to defend itself against Japan.

    The interesting point is the system. View from military technologies, Japan’s offensive capability is not an independent offensive capability of Japan. This is a part of the US military system. For example, Japan and Australia are planning to procure Tomahawk cruise missiles from the US. This Tomahawk missile is guided by GPS which is the US satellite-based system. If so, the offensive capabilities of Japan and Australia depend on the US system. Therefore, the US asked allies to share its security burden and Japan and Australia replied. That is what happened.

    Therefore, in my opinion, Japan’s new national security strategy is a part of the US lead counter China Strategy.

    About South Korea, they have already started to possess long-range strike capabilities. There project is so called “Kill Chain” which is very massive scale strike capabilities. The concern is their China strategy. Will South Korea decide to fight against China if China attacks Taiwan or other US allies? Japan has not identified what South Korea’s strategy is

    How can states like China and North Korea respond to this policy of Japan?

    What will China react? In our perception, China will not react so drastically. What happened between 2011 to 2020 indicated the expectation. According to SIPRI which is one of the think tank in Sweden, China increased their military expenditure 76%. During the same period, Japan increased only 2.4 %. The US decreased 10% during the same period. Therefore, the military expenditure of Japan or the US will not affect China’s decision to increase their military expenditure. China will increase their military expenditure when China wants to increase. That is only reason for them.

    Will North Korea stop their missile development program if Japan is not increase defense budget? I do not think so.


    Dr. Satoru Nagao is a fellow (non-resident) at Hudson Institute, based in Tokyo, Japan. From December 2017 through November 2020, he was a visiting fellow at Hudson Institute, based in Washington, DC.

    Dr. Nagao’s primary research area is US-Japan-India security cooperation. He was awarded his PhD by Gakushuin University in 2011 for his thesis, “India’s Military Strategy,” the first such research thesis on this topic in Japan. Gakushuin University is a premier institution from which members of the Japanese Imperial Family have also graduated.

    Dr. Nagao holds numerous other research positions, including director at the International Security Industry Council, senior research fellow at the Japan Forum for Strategic Studies, specially-appointed research fellow at the Japan Forum on International Relations, research fellow at the Institute for Future Engineering (strategy, defense policy), lecturer at Gakushuin University, associate at the Society of Security and Diplomatic Policy Studies, research fellow at the Security and Strategy Research Institute for Japan, senior fellow at the Institute of National Security Studies Sri Lanka, senior research fellow of the Indian Military Review, and visiting fellow (Indo-Pacific) and honorary convenor at the Japan of Tillotoma Foundation in India.

    Dr. Nagao was a visiting scholar at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), in Washington DC. He worked previously as a research fellow at the Tokyo Foundation and the Ocean Policy Research Foundation in Tokyo, as a post-doctoral fellow at the Research Institute for Oriental Cultures at Gakushuin University, and as a lecturer at Gakushuin University, Aoyama-Gakuin University and Komazawa University. He was also a security analyst at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) and a first lieutenant of the Japan Ground Self Defense Forces (Japanese Army).

    Dr. Nagao has authored numerous books and articles on security issues, and he also contributes to the column, “Age of Japan-India ‘Alliance'” at Nikkei Business, the journal of one of Japan’s leading newspapers.