The white paper issued by the Japanese Ministry of Defense, on July 22, is of great importance in light of the international and regional contexts concurrent with the timing of its publication. During the recent period, there has been increased talk about Japan’s efforts to enhance its defense capabilities in light of the international concerns created by the Ukrainian war, not to mention Japan’s presence as an important party in the ongoing competition between the United States and China in the trans-Indo-Pacific region. This follows the assassination of its former Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, one of the most important pioneers and planners of the trans-Indo-Pacific strategy, which the United States and its loyal countries have recently adopted. Thus, the white paper seems to confirm, in one way or another, that Japan’s political neutrality has become part of the past, and it also reinforces once again global fears of the possibility of another war in Asia, compounding the political and economic instability.
The White Paper is issued annually by the Japanese Ministry of Defense, which in turn contributes to providing a clear and specific vision for the status of the Japanese military institution, and how Tokyo views security and military developments in various parts of the world. The first edition of the report was published in 1970, and the volume of the report quickly doubled over the years, due to the expansion of the concept of conventional and unconventional security, including the field of space and cyber security, not to mention the military build-up of China and the development of North Korea’s nuclear and missile defenses. In this context, the white paper issued on July 22, 2022, included a number of key items as follows:
1- Emphasis on the need to increase military spending: This year, the document compared national defense expenditures in the countries of the Group of Seven major economies, South Korea and Australia, and indicated that defense expenditures in the United States represent about 3.12% of the country’s GDP, while defense expenditures for South Korea represent 2.57 percent of its GDP, while defense spending in Japan stands at less than 1%. In addition, Australia, South Korea, the United Kingdom, France, and Germany spend nearly two to three times as much as Japan on defense per capita. Accordingly, the white paper stated that these facts, as well as the situation in which threats to the security environment around Japan are increasing at an unprecedented pace, make it imperative for Tokyo to significantly enhance its defense capabilities.
This trend is also linked to the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s call for the government to increase the defense budget to more than 2% of GDP. However, the death of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who was a major driver of the budget increase, may have an impact on the debate over defense expenditures.
2- Promoting the importance of technological developments in the defense field: The book included a reference to the impact of science and technological developments on security and the increasing importance of space science and electromagnetic fields. The book stated that ensuring Japan’s technological superiority requires “increasing investment in potentially game-changing technologies, and increasing research and development expenditures to a record level.” The book emphasized the need to strengthen the technological base through strategic initiatives, promoting research and development, and the effective use of civilian technologies; In order to ensure Japan’s technological superiority, increase the flexibility of the industrial base to ensure the production of high-performance equipment and high operational availability, and enter into partnerships for defense technology cooperation.
3- Building a Multi-Domain Defense Force: The White Paper emphasized Japan’s strategy to build a Multi-Domain Defense Force as an effective defensive capability. According to the document, this strategy will ensure the defense of Japanese security through overlapping operations that organically integrate capabilities in all areas, including outer space, cyberspace, and the electromagnetic spectrum; This leads to an increase in Japan’s overall military capabilities, and a flexible and rapid response to the variables of the complex security environment.
4- Fear of the repercussions of Russian-Chinese cooperation: The Japanese Ministry of Defense warned, in its white paper, of the escalation of threats to its national security; This is due to the increasing cooperation and coordination between China and Russia. On the one hand, Russia launched a war against Ukraine, in conjunction with the escalating Chinese threat to Taiwan, and the threat of a military invasion to annex it to China by force, not to mention the joint military exercises carried out by Chinese and Russian ships and planes together in the areas surrounding Japan. The paper described such cooperation as an imminent threat to global security and stability in general, and the security of the region beyond the Indo-Pacific and Europe in particular.
5- Warning against and preparing for the Chinese invasion of Taiwan: Although there are no formal diplomatic relations between Taiwan and Japan, the two sides have established strong ties for some time in a number of areas. The white paper described Taiwan as a “strategic partner and important friend of Japan, with whom we share many core values such as freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law.” The report also dealt with the escalation of tensions between the United States and China over Taiwan, while emphasizing the adoption of the same American vision that rejects the direct Chinese invasion of Taiwan, and defends its current political situation.
6- The countries of the tripartite alliance (China – Russia – North Korea) are expected to fight a war in Asia: Japan is preparing for the joint Russian-Chinese cooperation that is located near its territorial waters. Experts point out that North Korea may also launch simultaneous military operations against US allies in the trans-Indo-Pacific region, if China invades Taiwan, in which case Japan may have to respond on all three fronts: “North Korea” and China and Russia. Clarifying this point in the white paper, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Katsutoshi Kawano said: “Japan should strive to enhance its defense capabilities by assuming that the three countries (Russia, China and North Korea) all share the same values, will cooperate in Taking military measures that threaten the security and stability of Asia in general and Japan in particular.
The white paper drew a number of outlines for Japan’s new foreign policy, reflecting Japan’s new geostrategic view of its position in the international system and its existing alliances. From this standpoint, it can be said that the book may have some potential consequences for Japanese regional and international foreign policy; This is as follows:
1- Supporting multilateral alliances to confront Russia and China: In this year’s White Paper, the Japanese Ministry of Defense devoted an entire chapter to Russia’s war in Ukraine and its potential long-term effects on Asia and the Indo-Pacific region. “If Russian aggression is tolerated, it may give a false impression that unilateral changes to the status quo are permissible in other regions, including Asia,” the report said. The paper also carried explicit warnings of the possibility of China launching a similar military operation against Taiwan.
From this point of view, the report stressed the need not to tolerate this aggression on the part of the international community, while stressing the importance of adopting a coordinated international position and emphasizing the importance of international alliances and partnerships. Among the alliances that the White Paper expressed Japan’s explicit support for are the tripartite gathering that brings it together with the United States of America and Australia, and the current cooperation between Japan and the European Union countries on a number of international issues.
2- Possibility of moving to persuade India to identify with the Western consensus: The White Paper stressed the need to support collective actions, while stressing the necessity of not tolerating some countries that deviate from this consensus, in reference to India. The Indian leadership has departed from the Western consensus, in its position on the Ukrainian war and Russia, and Washington has shown tolerance with New Delhi in this file, to the extent of discussing the abolition of the implementation of the “Countering America’s Enemies Through Sanctions Act” on India in the US House of Representatives, allowing it to By continuing to build military, strategic and security relations and partnerships with Russia, without being subjected to the consequences of US sanctions, as was previously the case with Turkey. Thus, Japanese moves may be active to persuade India, either directly or indirectly, to stop deviating from the Western consensus.
3- The increasing deterioration in Japanese-Chinese relations: China strongly rejected what was stated in the Japanese white papers, and its ambassador in Tokyo took the initiative to hand over to the Japanese government an official protest against this strategic assessment of the situation in the region. “The recent white paper issued by the Japanese Ministry of Defense makes unrealistic accusations and distorts China’s defense policy and efforts in the field of market economic development and legitimate maritime activities,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said in statements to the Chinese and foreign press. Wang added that the report exaggerates the so-called Chinese threat, and interferes in China’s internal affairs with regard to Taiwan.
4- The exacerbation of tension in Japanese-South Korean relations: South Korea, in turn, rejected what was stated in the white paper on Japan’s continued claim of sovereignty over the Dokdo islands, which Japan calls the “Takshima” islands in the far east. “The South Korean government protests Japan’s repeated claim of sovereignty over Dokdo, which is an inalienable part of South Korea’s territory according to history, geography and international law,” South Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman Choi Young said in a statement to the South Korean “Yonhap” news agency. and urges it to immediately retract these allegations.”
5- Devotion to competition in the Indo-Pacific region: It cannot be overlooked that the document issued by the Japanese Ministry of Defense reaffirms and perpetuates competition in the Indo-Pacific region and the polarization between China on one side and the United States and its allies, led by Japan, on the other. Perhaps the confirmation of the white paper on the necessity of increasing Japanese military spending indicates Tokyo’s awareness of the escalation of threats posed by competition in the region, especially with the ongoing tensions over the Taiwan file and the fear that Beijing will implement a military action to forcibly annex the island.
In conclusion, the white paper issued by the Japanese Ministry of Defense recently demonstrates Tokyo’s awareness of the rapid regional and international changes, which pose many security challenges. On the one hand, the Ukrainian war led to major transformations on the international scene and rearranged some international alliances, not to mention the fears it raised. on stability in different regions of the world. On the other hand, the state of security liquidity has increased in the Indo-Pacific region in light of the fierce competition between China and the United States for influence in the region. Add to that the nature of the non-traditional threats faced by countries and prompt Japan and others to invest in defense development and modern technology to deal with these threats.