Japan’s defense in relation to China in the 2013 NDPG under Abe
The advent of the second Abe government (2012-) entailed a clear change in Japan’s defense policy toward China and the policy of domestic credibility. Japan’s defense White Papers before 2012 included a long reference to diplomacy as the priority in national security means, but the 2013 defense White Paper, which was the first paper under the second Abe government, made little of diplomacy as the means to national security, and emphasized defense. He combined military logic with nationalism for the public justification of enhanced capability in relation to China. He and JNC policymakers and opinion leaders attempted to justify strong defense preparation in relation to China by attacking the conventional pacifist defense policy and to tame public opinion to support it. For this, territorial defense was upheld as the key concept. The 2013 NDPG was announced under this political orientation. It did not change listed defense operations very much, which was in line with the 2010 one. It was further articulation of Japan’s defense preparation toward China in accordance with the latter. It underscored Japan's unequivocal will to counter Chinese security challenges over the south-west island chain and its territorial waters. On the other hand, it considerably expanded the number of references to ‘perceived Chinese threats,’ which meant that political attitudes behind the NDPGs had changed. It pointed not only to the lack of China’s transparency in defense policy and its emerging military strategy such as A2/AD, but also to its ‘efforts to strengthen its asymmetrical military capabilities to prevent military activity by other countries in the region.’149 Specific references to China’s naval and air activities in the South China Sea and the East China Sea including its ADIZ declaration in the East China Sea were also included. The 2013 NDPG dared to employ strong words to denounce China and its ‘assertive actions’ or its attempt to ‘change the status quo by coercion.’150 China was elevated to a clear threat with aggressive intentions in this policy of domestic credibility.
In terms of defense planning, the change from the 2010 NDPG to the 2013 one appeared modest, but the nuanced enlargement of SDF operations was noticed, which suggested a weakened EDOP. There are four points. First, the 2013 NDPG replaced the DDFC with a Dynamic Joint Defense Force Concept (DJDFC), though they are almost the same. The DJDFC espoused flexibility and mobility in the deployment of three SDF forces to meet contingencies under a joint command.151 However, strengthening joint command and operations among three SDF forces started well before that time. The SDF introduced a joint command for three forces in 2006, and strengthened this function by introducing the Joint Task Force on an ad hoc basis in 2009. The Abe government supported the dynamic and flexible use of the SDF, but politically it needed a new defense concept to distinguish itself from the previous DPJ government. Second, the 2013 NDPG continued to emphasize that SDF capabilities should be limited to ISR, intelligence, transport, and command and control, but justified the extension of Japan’s ISR to wider geographical areas than the 2010 and 2004 NDPGs. It enlarged the area of SDF’s ISR by adding the term ‘extensive (Koikif to the ‘surrounding areas' of the 2010 NDPG.152 The 2013 NDPG positively referred to ISR as ‘intelligence superiority.’153 This point was presupposed in the previous NDPGs, but the 2013 one emphasized this and stepped forward to a more concrete use of ISR in relation to China. Third, the 2013 NDPG pointed out that the ‘grey-zone situations' were broadly observed and tended to linger in the APR.154 It emphasized the ‘seamless’ and ‘swift’ response to the grey-zone situations and the establishment of continuous defense posture against protracted situations.155 The necessity of an SDF capability for grey-zone contingencies was more concretely referred to. In May 2015, the Abe government issued a cabinet decision on defense preparation against armed groups' illegal landings onto the off-shore islands. It allowed the use of the SDF for some cases of infringement of Japan’s sovereignty by foreign non-military forces, which had never been conceived before the 2010s. Finally, the 2013 NDPG also changed the conventional term ‘response,’ which the previous NDPGs used, into ‘measures.’156 It used the term ‘measures’ for the security of the sea and airspace surrounding Japan, the defense of Japan’s off-shore islands, ballistic missiles, outer space and cyberspace. This change in language was intended to modify conventional reactive SDF operations and to allow for a more active or preventive use in the ‘grey-zone phase’ in which open military aggression did not take place. In this way, the EDOP, which used to be a basis of domestic credibility in defense policy, was rather modified and weakened.
Despite the change in the defense concepts, a concrete plan of the defense of the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands was not declared in the 2013 NDPG. The islands were initially supposed to be guarded by the JCG, while SDF’s ISR operations were intensified and first-response units of the JGSDF were prepared for the south-west island chain as a whole. Strengthening the paramilitary capability was continuously implemented as an immediate response. In January 2013, the Abe government decided to create a special ’team' of the JCG for the Senkaku Diaoyu islands. The team was composed of 12 JCG vessels, ten of which were
Japan’s changing defense policy 81 newly constructed for this purpose.157 Meanwhile, the partial use of the SDF was considered. In June 2013, it was reported that the LDP planned a new law that would allow the SDF to operate in the defense of territorial waters. This plan would enable the SDF, in cooperation with the JCG, to take action against foreign vessels that intruded into Japanese territorial waters.158 The effect was that China reacted by conducting a landing drill in the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea in March 2013.159 It also conducted its Mission Action 2013 exercise in September and October.160 A U.S. defense specialist, James Fanell, pointed out that China’s Mission Action 2013 was designed to conduct a short sharp war to destroy Japanese forces in the East China Sea, following the seizure of the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands or the western part of the south-west island chain.161 Against this move, the three SDF services conducted the first joint military exercise for recapturing off-shore islands, under a scenario of recapturing an island in the south-west island chain, during November 1-18, 2013. This included landing exercises on Okidaito Island, JGSDF’s land-to-surface missile exercises on Okinawa and Miyako islands and JGSDF’s and JASDF’s missile exercises on Ishigaki Island and Kume Island. It was open to the Chinese media, and the SDF reiterated that this exercise did not target any specific country.162 Military logic gradually influenced Japan-China tensions over the islands.
The 2013 NDPG justified the introduction of a ‘Japanese Marine Corps’ under the EDOP, though the units were not so large. It announced the development of Japan’s capability to recapture the off-shore islands in the event of a foreign takeover. This introduction made clear that Japan would not ‘tolerate the change of the status quo by force’ and would recapture off-shore islands if they were occupied, and that ‘(i)n responding to an attack on remote islands, Japan will intercept and defeat any invasion, by securing maritime supremacy and air superiority, with the necessary SDF units swiftly deployed to interdict.’163 The 2013 NDPG also prepared JMSDF and JASDF capabilities to secure maritime supremacy and air superiority for operations. JGSDF General Kiyofumi Iwata stated in the United States that this was a drastic reform of the JGSDF to meet China’s new challenges and a ‘turning point in defense and security policy,’ while it was made for a ‘proactive contribution to peace.’164
An enhanced capability in relation to China was also observed in the 2013 Defense White Paper. The paper briefly referred to Japan’s tekikichi kogeki ryoku (TKR) (pre-emptive capability against enemies’ bases) in a column outside the main text, but its actual implementation was not specified. In the Japanese debate of the 2000s and 2010s, the TKR was specified as a capability that can destroy North Korea’s missile bases before launching, but this will be sure to change Japan's military capability in relation to China. The TKR was initially hinted at by the Ichiro Hatoyama government in the 1950s as examined in Chapter 2. However, the Japanese government has since then avoided mention of this capability because of the EDOP, while the possibility of its use was sporadically raised by pro-defense lawmakers such as Ishiba outside the government from the end of the 1990s.165 In the face of North Korea’s missile launches in 2009, this debate restarted among LDP and pro-defense lawmakers,
who recognized the difficulty of defending Japan against missile attacks from the neighboring country. In 2009, the LDP sub-committee on Defense Policy concluded in a report that Japan should have the TKR for self-defense before it is attacked, and should procure cruise missiles for the Ageis destroyers of JMSDF.166 Despite those assertions by conservative political elites, opposition was still strong in the Japanese government. Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada (LDP) in the Aso government stated that we should be prudent about the ‘gallant’ argument and consider the probable political outcomes thereafter.167 The discussion died down once again, but was aroused again. After listing this issue in the 2013 Defense White Paper, the Abe government sought to include it in the 2015 Guidelines of the U.S.-Japan alliance, targeting North Korea's missiles, but. in 2017, finally denied its use under the EDOP.168 Nonetheless, the debate over this issue did not cease. The Abe government decided to introduce the Aegis Ashore land-based missile defense system and considered the introduction of air-launched cruise missiles against North Korea, but this enhanced capability was also sure to impact upon security relations with China.