Discuss ways to maintain deterrence as upper house poll approaches

The Yomiuri ShimbunIt is essential to squarely look at the severe national security environment and examine how the Japan-U.S. alliance and development of defense capabilities should be. Constructive discussions are required.

The United States and North Korea have agreed to resume working-level talks toward North Korea’s denuclearization. However, the prospect of North Korea giving up its nuclear and missile programs is still difficult to judge.

The Liberal Democratic Party placed diplomacy and national security as pillars of its campaign pledges for the House of Councillors election, saying, “The capabilities against ballistic missiles will be enhanced.” The Aegis Ashore land-based missile defense system planned to be deployed in Akita and Yamaguchi prefectures is the equipment for that purpose.

The Aegis Ashore system has superior capabilities compared to the Maritime Self-Defense Force’s Aegis destroyers and it can respond to multiple missiles launched simultaneously. It can be said that the deployment is appropriate.

The Defense Ministry has made a series of mistakes in studying candidate locations, and opposition parties have strongly criticized this. The government must gravely reflect on the ministry’s mistakes and strive to restore the trust it has lost. Both ruling and opposition parties are urged to deepen discussions calmly about realistic response measures against North Korean threats.

Medium- and long-term defense policy issues are responses to China, which aspires to be a “sea power.” China has militarized the South China Sea and has repeated provocative actions around the Senkaku Islands of Okinawa Prefecture. Integrated operation of the Self-Defense Forces and the U.S. military forces must be promoted and the defense of the Nansei Islands needs to be enhanced.

Think of national interests

The deterrence provided by the U.S. forces stationed in Japan is indispensable for the stability of the Asia-Pacific region. It is significant to lower the risks of accidents by relocating the Futenma Air Station, surrounded by urban areas in Ginowan, Okinawa Prefecture, to the Henoko district in Nago, Okinawa Prefecture, while maintaining deterrence.

While the LDP advocates the relocation plan should “steadily proceed,” the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan wants to “stop the construction” and the Democratic Party for the People wants to “review the plan.”

The administration of former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama of the then Democratic Party of Japan, which had advocated a “relocation at least outside the prefecture,” accepted the relocation plan to Henoko after a series of dithering actions, leading to the current confusion. It is problematic for such opposition parties descending from the DPJ to advocate opposition to the relocation without touching on such developments.

As for reducing the burdens on Okinawa Prefecture, discussions must start for specifics such as the return of U.S. bases and relocation of U.S. military aircraft exercises.

In response to increased tension in the Iranian situation, the United States seeks to put together an international coalition with the purpose of safeguarding the Strait of Hormuz and other locations in the Middle East. The issue is how Japan will respond when it is asked to cooperate with the coalition.

Maritime security operations based on the Self-Defense Forces Law and the SDF dispatch under the security-related legislation would become topics of discussions. Judgments must be made carefully after analyzing the United States’ intention and international situations.

The Strait of Hormuz is a key waterway for maritime transport, through which 80 percent of Japan’s crude oil imports pass. An international contribution that matches Japan’s national interests must be thought out.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 17, 2019)Speech


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