Japan Institute for National Fundamentals

Speaking out

Fumio Ota

【#392】Unsatisfactory Defense White Paper

Fumio Ota / 2016.08.15 (Mon)

August 8, 2016

     As the writer of Part I (World Military Situation) of Japan’s defense white paper for 1987, I would like to comment on this year’s version. The latest defense white paper fails to describe any specific prediction about China’s military expansion. Instead, it frequently says just that future developments will attract attention. The paper should also have provided military technology comparison to make it easier for readers to understand current topics.

Outlook for China’s military expansion
     China, though seeing slower economic growth, has decided to build its second aircraft carrier and other major warships, indicating that defense spending growth would not fall rapidly.
     “Becoming a Great ‘Maritime Power’: A Chinese Dream,” a report published by the U.S. Center for Naval Analysis in June, predicts that China will have 270-279 major “far seas” warships in 2020 against the U.S. number of around 260 (42 for the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force). The number of China’s Aegis-like destroyers is projected at 18-20 matching or topping a combination of 8 for the JMSDF and 10 for the U.S. 7th Fleet based in Japan.
     Furthermore, the China Maritime Studies Institute of the U.S. Naval War College forecasts that the number of major “far sea” Chinese warships in 2030 would reach about 400 including about 100 submarines.
     By providing a future military balance outlook based on such specific forecasts, the Japanese defense white paper could indicate a clearer guideline for what Japan should do.

Military technology comparison
     Meanwhile, the white paper notes that China and Russia have opposed South Korea’s plan to deploy THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) missile. In a footnote, it also cites a media report that Russia signed a contract last year to export 32 launchers for S-400 surface-to-air missiles available for ballistic missile defense. However, the paper fails to compare the capabilities of THAAD and S-400 missiles. The S-400 missile system with a range of 400 kilometers can simultaneously respond to up to six targets, performing better than the THAAD system with a range of 200 kilometers.
     This means that China and Russia opposed the South Korean THAAD deployment plan after signing the S-400 contract last year, representing a selfish attitude that they do something while trying to prevent others from doing the same. The attitude is similar to China’s egoistic approach under which it requires foreign ships to obtain Chinese permits to enter its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) while sending ships for research operations in other countries’ EEZ waters without their permits. The Japanese defense white paper fails to indicate such selfish or egoistic Chinese approach.
     In addition, the paper in its leadoff summarized article titled, “Japan’s Defense: Past Year” fails to mention China’s maritime expansion. What are reasons for the omission? Incidentally, up to 13 ships of the China Coast Guard intruded Japan’s territorial waters or relevant contiguous zone around the Senkaku Islands on August 5, 6 and 7. As many as 300 Chinese fishing boats were also sailing nearby.

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