Japanese blitz: Tokyo announced a new defense strategy

On February 10, the Russian Foreign Ministry announced that the issue of a peace treaty with Japan was closed. The official representative of the department, Maria Zakharova, noted that Moscow withdrew from negotiations on the agreement on March 22 last year due to “the obvious unfriendly nature of the unilateral restrictions imposed by Japan against Russia.” This statement was a logical response to the ever-increasing US military activity in East Asia, where Japan is involved. Tokyo officially enters the big game. Izvestia found out how this will affect security in the region.

New strategy

On December 22, the Japanese government released a new version of the National Security Strategy. For the first time in the entire post-war period, it announced intentions to “actively respond” to what is happening in the region, and the “Ukrainian case” is called a dangerous precedent that has every chance of repeating itself in the Indo-Pacific region and “especially in East Asia.” Under these goals and in accordance with the published Defense Buildup Plan, Tokyo approved a record military budget of $51 billion since 1945, and plans to bring it to 2% of GDP in the five-year term (that is, about $107.6 billion, which will be the third highest in the world after USA and China). It, in particular, will be spent on “counter-offensive” missile systems.

In January, Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg embarked on a regional tour of East Asia. As a result, the head of the US military department announced the modernization and quantitative improvement of the contingent stationed on the Japanese islands. A month later, Japanese Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada announced the forthcoming purchase of 500 Tomahawk missiles. In addition, information was leaked to the press about plans to deploy American LRHW hypersonic systems with a flight range of up to 2775 km.

Launch of a Tomahawk missile during a quadripartite exercise between Australia, Japan, the Republic of Korea and the US Navy

Photo: Global Look press/US Navy

Despite the fact that the country is going through a stage of militarization unprecedented in post-war history, the political elites of the country and society agree on the need for it, Dmitry Streltsov, an expert of the Valdai Club and head of the Department of Oriental Studies at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations of the Russian Foreign Ministry, noted in an interview with Izvestia.

There is a growing conservative wave in Japan and there is a common understanding of the government’s defense efforts. The only debatable issue is the funding of these efforts. The main factors were the Ukrainian crisis and the activity of China. The Japanese take the “Taiwanese case” to heart. All this gives rise to alarmism within the country,” he said.

New friends

Gradually, Japan is getting closer to joining AUKUS, a military alliance created by the United States to contain China, which, in addition to the Americans, includes Australia and Great Britain. In April 2022, Japanese media reported on an “unofficial invitation” sent to Tokyo. Washington is particularly interested in Japan’s developments in hypersonic weapons and electronic warfare. Then it was reported that the Japanese political elites have different views on joining the alliance: many were confused by statements about China’s “provocative” actions and at the same time plans to join an openly anti-Chinese defense alliance. Nevertheless, Japan’s membership in AUKUS seems to be a matter of time, says Oleg Kocherov, Associate Professor of the Department of the History of Political Doctrines of the Faculty of Political Science of the GAUGN.

Photo: Getty Image/Anadolu Agency/Contributor

“Potentially, Japan’s entry into AUKUS would be quite in the spirit of the modern Japanese national security strategy,” the expert believes. “Tokyo has been seeking closer cooperation with both Western countries and their Asian partners for quite some time now. Suffice it to recall that the Quadripartite Security Dialogue (Quad. – Izvestia) arose largely thanks to the efforts of Japanese leaders. In the same vein – Japan’s increasingly free interpretation of the ninth article of its Constitution (denying the state the right to wage war. – Izvestia), and the expansion of the capabilities of the Japanese self-defense forces, and Japan’s participation in a number of military exercises (Malabar, ANNUALEX and etc.).

In this regard, it can be expected that in the short term, Japan is able to obtain observer status in AUKUS, adds Kocherov. Whether Tokyo goes beyond this or not depends largely on Beijing’s actions and whether the Japanese continue to perceive it as a threat.

old problem

Back in January 2022, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, during a speech on the results of the activities of Russian diplomacy in 2021, said that the Russian side had handed over to the Japanese colleagues the draft articles of the peace treaty. Moreover, the head of Russian diplomacy specifically pointed out that the agreement should take into account issues of mutual security guarantees in the region. Thus, by imposing several package restrictions on Russian business and officials in March last year, Japan itself destroyed eight years of substantive negotiations. Tokyo could have received a very specific practical perspective for years to come, but now it is forced to become more and more integrated into the confrontation of the big players.

Shikotan Island is the largest island in the small ridge of the Kuril Islands.

Photo: RIA Novosti / Sergey Krasnoukhov

Today in Japan, everyone is well aware that it is impossible to return the Kuril Islands. Therefore, the option proposed by Shinzo Abe in 2018 – to rely on the terms of the 1956 declaration, according to which, when signing a peace treaty, the parties could discuss the transfer of two islands to Japan, was at one time or another accepted with approval by Japanese society, stresses Dmitry Streltsov .

– Abe was popular, and his policy towards Russia was perceived positively by the Japanese. But since it was not successful, now no one remembers his proposals. It was a unique opportunity, but now it is lost. It is unlikely that in the foreseeable future, any of the Japanese politicians will decide on something like that, – said the interlocutor of Izvestia.

Threat #1

Of course, the main concern of the Japanese is not Russia, but two other immediate neighbors: China and North Korea. And if there were quite serious chances to reach an agreement with Moscow, then with Beijing everything is much more complicated. There are many painful points in Japanese-Chinese relations, reminds Oleg Kocherov.

– This is China’s activation in the East China and South China Seas, and the long-term dispute over the Senkaku (Diaoyu) Islands, and the discussions associated with it about the boundaries of exclusive economic zones and air defense identification zones, and in general, which has become more pronounced in recent years. harsh rhetoric from Beijing,” the specialist listed. At the same time, from the point of view of the United States, Japan is an extremely important element in the geopolitical strategy of the island chains, the purpose of which is to contain the PRC. And although the potential membership of Japan in AUKUS will clearly affect Japanese-Chinese relations, it is worth remembering that AUKUS is still far from being an East Asian analogue of NATO, and Beijing and Tokyo have already become accustomed to the formula “cold politics, hot economy.”

Economy determines

It should be noted that the government of Fumio Kishida, loyal to “transatlantic unity”, is ready not only to sharply increase defense budget items (and even more attract the attention of potential adversaries), but also to reduce energy imports, despite the fact that this issue is vital for Japan. important.

The Lunskaya-A platform built as part of the Sakhalin-2 project

Photo: gazprom.ru

In May 2022, the country’s prime minister announced that Tokyo, although it would not withdraw from the Sakhalin-1 and Sakhalin-2 projects, would at the same time go for a phase-out of imports. It is believed that the absence from the oil cooperation on the island became part of a deal on military cooperation with Washington. Japan rightfully fears that China will take its place in the project very soon, and this will be perceived not only economically, but also politically as a serious defeat.

Economic dependence on the PRC is even deeper. So much so that in May last year, the Kishida government undertook a massive reorganization that included the appointment of a minister of economic security, the creation of an economic section of the National Security Secretariat, and special economic security units in other major agencies or ministries (MFA, MOD, intelligence services, etc.).

In May last year, the protectionist Law on Promoting Economic Security and Implications for Business was adopted, which aims to reduce dependence on external players, mainly in the field of energy supplies and resources. How effective this decision will be for insular Japan is a debatable question. However, it is clear that its decision will take many years.

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