Japan Institute for National Fundamentals
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Speaking out

Fumio Ota

【#460】Defense Policies’ Deviation from Actual Situation

Fumio Ota / 2017.08.17 (Thu)


August 14, 2017

     The Ministry of Defense has just published a defense white paper for 2017. Having read the annual report, titled Defense of Japan 2017, I sensed a deviation between Part I “Security Environment Surrounding Japan” and Part II “Japan’s Security and Defense Policy and the Japan-U.S. Alliance.”

Is Japan prepared for “gray zone” situations?
     In Part I, Chapter 1 “Overview” says, “There has been also a tendency towards an increase in and prolongation of so-called ‘gray-zone’ situations, that is, neither pure peace nor war.” Section 4 of Chapter 2 on Russia describes “hybrid warfare” in which Special Forces clad in civilian clothes are used to expand territories.
     However, Part II, while describing cabinet decisions to accelerate procedures for ordering public security operation or maritime security operation to address “gray zone” situations, provides in an old-fashioned manner a flow chart of procedures to deal with an armed attack by a foreign country on Japan and illustrations of each Self-Defense Force’s battle with enemy regular forces. If an armed attack on Japan occurs, U.S. forces will immediately engage and any attacking country will have no chance of winning. Therefore, any such battle as illustrated in the white paper is very unlikely. Likelier is an attempt by foreign maritime militia or government ships to accumulate faits accomplis. Nevertheless, the defense white paper fails to describe specific measures for the Japan Coast Guard, police and the Self-Defense Forces to seamlessly cooperate in addressing such attempt.

Defective situation analysis
     The annual defense white papers have increased descriptions on outer space and cyberspace for the past few years. In this respect, it should be appreciated that Part I of the latest report describes foreign countries’ trends in these fields. However, the report lacks an analysis on the nature of space and cyber warfare. My analysis shows that space or cyber warfare dominantly favors the offensive side.
     The Washington Free Beacon, a U.S. Internet newspaper, on August 2 reported that China recently carried out a flight test of the Dong Neng-3 anti-satellite missile. Steps to defend satellites are limited to non-cost-effective measures including the modification of orbits and the hardening of satellites, indicating that the offensive side has a dominant advantage. In cyberspace, the offensive side makes various attacks on various places of computer operating systems and communication circuits. Even if only one attack is successful, the offensive side can win. In contrast, the defensive side must take measures against all attacks. Thus, in modern warfare where space and cyber attacks occur simultaneously, Japan’s “exclusively defense-oriented” policy cannot work.
     The same thing can be said about what the defense white paper calls a “new-stage threat” from North Korea. As the capabilities of North Korean ballistic missiles to conduct saturated and surprise attacks have improved, the missile-defense-only approach emanating from the exclusively defense-oriented policy is approaching the limit. Nevertheless, the white paper lacks descriptions on the limit.
     Finally, I wonder why the white paper makes no mention of an over-the-horizon (OTH) radar system installed by China in Inner Mongolia in January. Chinese media have reported that the radar can detect flights of F-35B stealth fighters deployed at a U.S. base in Iwakuni, Japan. By describing the Chinese action, the paper could emphasize the selfishness of China that strongly opposes the U.S. deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system in South Korea for the reason that aircraft in inland China could be detected by the THAAD radar.
     I hope that the defense white paper will analyze natures of situations and their implications that can be linked to policies and that the government will change policies to reflect such analysis.

Fumio Ota is a JINF Planning Committee Member and retired Vice Admiral of Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force.