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Takashi Arimoto

【#738】Japan Should Adopt “Three Warfares” Concept to Defend Senkakus

Takashi Arimoto / 2020.11.19 (Thu)

November 16, 2020


China Coast Guard ships have frequently intruded into waters near the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture, exposing the Japanese islands to dangers. There is a country from which Japan should learn how to secure its effective control of the Senkakus. That is none other than China. The Chinese Communist Party revised the People’s Liberation Army Political Work Regulation in 2003 to adopt the so-called “Three Warfares” concept to exploit public opinion, psychological and legal warfares to undermine enemy power. Japan should adopt its own “Three Warfares” concept to counter China that is growing aggressive.

Biden to apply Article 5 of Japan-U.S. Security Treaty to defend Senkakus

Begin with the psychological warfare. On November 12, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga held telephone talks with former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, who has declared his victory in the latest U.S. presidential election. After the talks, Suga announced that Biden viewed the Senkaku Islands as covered by Article 5 of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty that requires the United States to defend Japan. The Japanese prime minister took up the application of the article to the Senkakus and Biden responded positively. Amid concerns that he might take a conciliatory attitude towards China, Biden made clear that the U.S. would remain committed to defend the Senkakus, exerting psychological pressure on China.

The psychological pressure alone is not enough. Japan should enhance its public opinion warfare to internationally emphasize that the indigenous Japanese territory is threatened by China and thereby lead the international community to recognize the Chinese actions as unreasonable.

Coming next is the legal warfare. Though I recognize the Japanese government’s efforts to win U.S. president’s verbal commitment to applying the security treaty to the Senkaku Islands, Japan should not rely on such verbal assurance alone. Japan should make self-help efforts that include the legal warfare as the first step.

China proposed revisions to its national defense law at a session of the National People’s Congress in late October, declaring virtually that the country would go to war if its economic interests are threatened. It also announced a bill to enhance the power of the China Coast Guard. China has thus been steadily waging its legal warfare.

If China were to take over the Senkakus, it is likely to send special military forces to land on the islands by catching Japan unguarded. In such a case, it would be difficult for the Japanese government to mobilize the Self-Defense Forces to counter Chinese action. Japan should develop law and guidelines to allow the SDF to promptly respond to such event.

Do not hesitate to land on Senkakus to enhance Japan’s control

Some lawmakers of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party are preparing a bill to conduct a survey on the ecosystems of the Senkaku Islands. The government plans to implement a Senkaku ecosystem survey that will use satellites and fall short of including landings on the islands. Such satellite survey would fail to enhance Japan’s effective control on the islands. The government has avoided any landings on the Senkaku Islands, taking care not to provoke China. As a result, Chinese government ships have frequently intruded into and stayed in waters around the Senkakus.

Suga felt a sense of danger regarding the Senkaku Islands and tried to facilitate communications between the Japan Coast Guard and the Maritime Self-Defense Force when he served as chief cabinet secretary under the former Abe administration. Then, a basic plan on maritime policy adopted by the cabinet in April 2013 called for the JCG and MSDF to promptly share information to develop vigilance and surveillance arrangements. But it may be difficult to correct sectionalism that impedes cooperation between government organizations. What Prime Minister Suga is required to do is to secure Japan’s effective control on the Senkakus, rather than taking mere pose to do so.

Takashi Arimoto is publisher of Monthly Magazine SEIRON at the Sankei Shimbun newspaper.