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Takashi Arimoto

【#826】Are LDP Presidential Candidates Ready to Confront China?

Takashi Arimoto / 2021.09.16 (Thu)

September 13, 2021

Candidates for the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s presidential election on September 29 are asked if they are ready to address the deterioration of security environment surrounding Japan.

For the immediate future, the next LDP president, who will be elected prime minister because of the party’s parliamentary dominance, would have to make utmost efforts to fight against the novel coronavirus pandemic that has originated from Wuhan, China. But we must note that China has been rapidly building up its military forces, demonstrating its readiness to unify Taiwan by force. Each LDP presidential candidate should discuss the clear Chinese threats and propose specific measures to enhance Japan’s defense capabilities.

Are LDP presidential candidates aware of threats?

The three candidates who declared by September 10 for the LDP presidency have promised to enhance Japan’s defense capabilities at press conferences or in their policy announcements. “I am prepared to protect our nation’s territorial land, waters and airspace at all costs,” said Fumio Kishida. “The state’s ultimate mission is to protect its territorial land, waters, airspace and resources at all costs,” said Sanae Takaichi. “I will develop a framework and enhance deterrence to counter any unilateral attempt to change the status quo,” said Taro Kono.

Japan has made an international pledge to enhance defense capabilities. “Japan resolved to bolster its own national defense capabilities,” said a joint statement released after the Japan-U.S. summit meeting in April. The Japanese government has limited defense spending to 1% of Japan’s gross domestic product. The Shinzo Abe administration launched a position of not sticking to the 1% limit. The Abe administration and the subsequent Yoshihide Suga government increased defense spending for nine consecutive years to fiscal 2021, but defense spending has still remained below 1% of GDP.

“If defense spending is raised to U.S. and European levels, or 2% of GDP, it will be 10 trillion yen (about $90 billion). Unless sufficient money is spent as necessary, we cannot defend Japan,” Takaichi told reporters, indicating a strong ambition to increase defense spending. In a BS TV Tokyo program, Kishida said: “What are necessary must be prepared. We should consider the matter while watching realities.” Kono as well offered to “develop and enhance defense capabilities.”

What is questioned is each LDP presidential candidate’s awareness of threats. Japan’s defense white paper described Chinese military trends as “a matter of grave concern to the region including Japan and the international community,” while clarifying North Korean military trends as posing “grave and imminent threats” to Japan’s security. The description apparently indicates the government’s reluctance to irritate China.

We are tired of abstract arguments

Such reluctance is especially strong in Japan’s business circle that depends heavily on the Chinese economy. In Japan, made-in-China daily commodities and electrical home appliances are widespread. As shown by mask shortages seen amid the spread of novel coronavirus infections last year, however, Japan is urgently required to phase out supply chains’ dependence on China.

Unlike the former Soviet Union, China has been deeply incorporated into the global economy. It may not be easy to decouple China. Nevertheless, each LDP presidential candidate should discuss the awareness of Chinese threats and demonstrate how to defend Japan at election campaign debates.

We are tired of abstract arguments. We want specific messages.

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