Japan new security plan focuses on island dispute

AP News
Posted: Dec 16, 2013 11:33 PM

TOKYO (AP) — Japan's Cabinet on Tuesday adopted a national security strategy and revised defense plans that increase defense spending 5 percent over the next five years and call for a larger role in maintaining international stability amid China's rise.

The program for 2014-2019 includes acquisition of surveillance drones, anti-missile destroyers and other equipment as Japan's defense priority shifts from its northern reaches to the East China Sea, where Tokyo and Beijing are embroiled in a territorial spat over some uninhabited islands.

The revised defense plans are based on the new national security strategy that reflects Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's drive to raise the profile of Japan's military and for the country to play a bigger international role.

Experts say the strategy and the defense plans are in line with power shift that has been continuing for several years. But Japan's neighbors — and some Japanese citizens — worry that the guidelines push the country away from its pacifist constitution.

The guidelines say China's growing maritime and military presence in the East China Sea, its lack of transparency and "high-handed" approach — including its recent imposition of an air defense zone in the area — pose potential risks that could trigger problems. Late last month, China said all aircraft entering a vast zone over the East China Seat must identify themselves and follow Chinese instructions , although the U.S., Japan and South Korea have ignored those demands.

Abe said the national security strategy shows Japan's diplomatic and security policy to people in and outside Japan "with clarity and transparency."

Under the plan, Japan is shifting its troop deployment from the north to remote islands in southwestern Japan, and creates its first "amphibious" unit similar to the U.S. Marines, as part of ground defense forces, to respond quickly in case of foreign invasion on those islands. Japan plans to deploy early warning system, submarines and anti-missile defense system to step up intelligence in the area.

During the five-year period through March 2019, Japan plans to buy three drones, likely a Global Hawk, as well as 17 Ospreys and two Aegis-class destroyers. The purchases would cost 24.7 trillion yen ($247 billion), up 5 percent from the previous plan.

The defense plan says Japan should "demonstrate its commitment to defense and its high capability," upgrade equipment, increase troop activity and step up defense capability in both quality and quantity to raise deterrence levels amid an increasingly harsh regional security environment.