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Japan warns of threats from China and N. Korea

By Hiroko Tabuchi

New York Times

LAST UPDATED: 06:49 a.m. HST, Jul 09, 2013

TOKYO » Japan sounded the alarm Tuesday (Monday in Hawaii) on rising security threats in Northeast Asia, warning in a government report of a potential military confrontation with China over maritime disputes, as well as a North Korean weapons program that appeared intent on producing longer-range nuclear missiles.

Japan’s annual defense paper, the first since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took office in December, also raised concerns that budget cuts in the United States and a range of other distractions would hinder Washington’s much-touted “pivot to Asia” — a strategic reorienting of U.S. interests from Europe and the Middle East toward East Asia.

“In its defense strategic guidance, the U.S. presented policies emphasizing a rebalance toward the Asia-Pacific region,” the report drawn up by Japan’s Defense Ministry said. “But how its harsh financial situation will impact efforts to translate these policies into reality attracts attention.”

Abe, a conservative, has been keen to revamp Japan’s military strategy to offset China’s growing military power and the continuing instability on the Korean Peninsula.

In January, he ordered his government to replace the nation’s five-year military spending plan and to review guidelines adopted in 2010 by the left-leaning Democratic Party, which would have shrunk the Japanese military’s ranks. Instead, Abe plans to increase Tokyo’s military spending for the first time in a decade.

Abe has also sought to bolster military cooperation with the United States, including holding joint military training drills with Tokyo’s longtime security ally. But Japan has struggled to hold America’s attention. President Barack Obama skipped a meeting with Abe on the sidelines of the Group of Eight summit in Northern Ireland last month.

Even as Washington has remained distracted by other matters, the report warned, the security situation in Northeast Asia was turning increasingly volatile.

Tokyo is particularly worried by what the report called Chinese intrusions into waters around islands claimed by both countries. Since last year, Japanese and Chinese patrol ships have been engaged in a tense face-off near the Senkaku islands, a set of uninhabited islets in the East ChinaSea that China calls the Diaoyus.

Though there have been no clashes so far, some experts have warned that an incident at sea could inadvertently trigger a wider military confrontation between the two Asian powers. In January, Tokyo accused a Chinese military vessel of aiming radar used to help direct weapons on a Japanese naval vessel near the islands. That came after Japan scrambled fighter jets in response to a Chinese military surveillance plane that had entered what Japan considers its airspace.

China’s “intrusion into Japan’s territorial waters, its violation of Japan’s airspace and even dangerous actions that could cause a contingency situation, which are extremely regrettable,” the report said. “China should accept and stick to the international norms.”

The Japanese government has also been rattled by renewed belligerence from North Korea, which fired off a long-range rocket in December and conducted its third nuclear test in February. Those moves suggest that North Korea is pushing ahead with plans to develop more advanced and longer-range missiles that could ultimately carry nuclear warheads.

“We assess that North Korea’s ballistic-missile development is considered to have entered a new phase,” the report said.

Coupled with its nuclear tests, North Korea’s weapons program “has developed into a more real and imminent problem for the wider international community,” it said.

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HD36 wrote:
Japan's defense depends on China's finance of the US Government through bond purchases. Should China begin to sell, the interest rates will spike even higher as the Fed begins to taper. When the Fed begins to sell, China may not buy, and the interest on the debt will exceed the GDP of the Nation. Our best option is to let Japan build up its own military.
on July 9,2013 | 07:12AM
localguy wrote:
HD36 - Not going to happen. China starts to sell, value will drop, making them worth much less.
on July 9,2013 | 09:47AM
cojef wrote:
A move toward sabre rattling by both sides that can escalate into confrontation that both side cannot back out from. Things are heating up and cool heads must prevail. Abe is bad for Japan as he from the old "bushido" days mentality.
on July 9,2013 | 07:35AM
allie wrote:
well put. I pray for peace. USA just cannot waste any more money on wars. We are just flat broke.
on July 9,2013 | 10:08AM
Mythman wrote:
Yes, Allie, the US is flat broke because it has been sending so much of its treasury to native Hawaiians on welfare.
on July 9,2013 | 12:02PM
pcman wrote:
Japan is in a quandary as to whether of not to continue to depend on the US for its national defense. As President Obama continues his efforts to reduce the US defense capabilities worldwide, including the phasedown of deployed US forces in Japan, reduction of air and naval investments for the future, Japan will have to decide how much of their own defense they can afford. Japan also faces the possibility of the US reduction of its nuclear forces, as Obama has proposed, which would decrease the US "nuclear umbrella" over Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. Japan may decide to have its own nuclear weapons to ensure its own defense. That would cause a nuclear proliferation of all countries in Asia.
on July 9,2013 | 08:18AM
localguy wrote:
Phase down of deployed US forces is only talking about Okinawa. US holds way too much land for this small island area, basically splitting it in half. US Air Force Kadena, largest air base in area will stay. US Army works signal services. Marines could be reduced by half, going to Guam, Hawaii, Australia, not an issue. Navy mostly on mainland Japan. Remember, China has a totally virgin military with no, zero, combat experience, all "cherry boys." Remember how fast the US Army rolled right through the "Vaunted Republican Guard" in Iraq hardly even slowing down. Reporters like to give other military fancy names, how little they know.
on July 9,2013 | 09:53AM
allie wrote:
Obama is not at fault. Our country is broke and can no longer be an empire. Let Japan defend itself. Same with Germany and Israel. Let these rich countries take the burden of their defence off us.
on July 9,2013 | 10:09AM
Mythman wrote:
It's not the defense budget that is a burden, it is sending welfare to the Mandan tribe reservation that is.....
on July 9,2013 | 12:04PM
Imagen wrote:
on July 9,2013 | 01:03PM
Mythman wrote:
Remember the Yamamoto!
on July 9,2013 | 12:03PM
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