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Sumihiko Kawamura

【#179】 Japan Should Demonstrate Resolve to Defend Territories

Sumihiko Kawamura / 2013.02.10 (Sun)


February 12, 2013

     China's aggressiveness near Japan's Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea is escalating. Chinese government ships have repeatedly intruded into Japan's territorial waters surrounding the islets in a bid to establish China's effective control of the islands. A Chinese aircraft has violated Japan's airspace over the territorial waters. Furthermore, a Chinese naval frigate has locked its weapons-targeting radar onto a destroyer of Japan's Maritime Self-Defense Force.
     For China the denial of U.S. Navy's entry into the East China Sea or the blocking of its access in the outer ocean is essential to win hegemony in the Asia Pacific region. The anti-access policy has the same strategic importance as the impending deployment in the South China Sea of missile-armed submarines targeting the U.S. mainland in order to obtain the equal nuclear deterrence with the United States,
     While the seizure of Japan’s Nansei Shoto (southwestern islands) including Senkakus is China's top priority imperative, its ultimate objective is not to obtain natural resources but to secure its gate to the ocean. As the territorial ambition is based on its national strategy, Beijing will never backpedal on the imperative.
     China's forceful challenge to the Senkakus amounts to invasion. In order to effectively counter the Chinese challenge, Japan should demonstrate its national resolve to absolutely defend its territories on its own and should enhance the Japan-U.S. alliance, building a resilient defense system to deter Chinese actions.

Urgent need to develop a defense system for the islands
     First, Japan should urgently develop a defense system for Nansei Shoto. In order to secure the relevant defense mobility, the government will have to increase defense equipment, deploy and beef up Self-Defense Forces troops on isolated islands including the Senkakus, Shimoji, Ishigaki and Miyako, increase SDF troops in general and enhance their training. Defense
outlays will have to be expanded remarkably.
     At the same time, Japan should enact national security laws including a “territory security law” for defending territories and revise the rule of engagement( ROE) covering SDF troops’ use of weapons.
     In regard to a territory security law, Article 25 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea provides, "The coastal state may take the necessary steps in its territorial sea to prevent passage which is not innocent." Nevertheless, Japan has failed to enact such domestic law. As a result, Japan has nothing to do against Chinese government ships intruding
into its territorial waters, leaving them to infringe on its sovereignty. Japan is urgently required to enact the territory security law.
     The present East China Sea tensions have indicated that the present ROE cannot allow the SDF to effectively respond to Chinese threats. The ROE must be revised to enable accurate responses.

Japan-U.S. exercises in the East China Sea
     At the same time, Japan should frequently conduct joint military exercises with the United States in the East China Sea to further strengthen the bilateral alliance and should revise its interpretation of the Constitution to exercise its right to collective self-defense. The present interpretation says Japan has the right to collective self-defense but cannot exercise it.
     The measures mentioned above will allow Japan to clearly demonstrate its absolute resolve to defend its territories.
     While there are many challenges facing the government, I place great expectations on Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s decisions and leadership.

Sumihiko Kawamura is Retired JMSDF Rear Admiral, Representative of the Kawamura Institute for Maritime Security Studies and Visiting Scholar of JINF