Japan's defense plans raise hackles in China
Editor's note: Geoff Hiscock is a former Asia business editor ofCNN.com, and author of "Earth Wars: The Battle for Global Resources."
(CNN) -- Japan's new defense white paper has done little to mend fenceswith Beijing, with the Chinese government complaining that its Asian neighboris using the "China threat" to justify a bigger defense budget.
Japan will spend about $49 billionon defense in the fiscal year to March 2015 -- up about 3% from the previousyear -- in the face of what it says is a worsening security environment in theregion. It cites tensions on the Korean peninsula and territorial disputes inthe sea lanes running south from northern Asia as its key concerns.
Under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe,Japan is becoming more assertive about its defense posture, and is looking toupgrade its military over the next four years with bigger helicopter carriers,more anti-submarine patrol aircraft, surveillance drones, better amphibiouswarfare capability, and first deliveries in 2018 of its new fifth-generationfighter, the U.S.-made F35 Joint Strike Fighter.
In terms of regional defense, Japanbenefits substantially from its security alliance with the United States, andis a big buyer of U.S.-made weaponry. It also builds its own submarines,surface ships and fighter variants.
China, whichwill likely spend about $200 billion this financial year on defense --second only to the United States -- is a significant buyer of Russian aircraft,ships and submarines, but is concentrating on its own domestic capabilities. Itlaunched its first aircraft carrier in late 2012, with two more likely to bebuilt by the end of this decade. It is also developing its own fifth-generationstealth fighter, the twin-engined J20, with the first deployment expected in2018.
Japan'sannual defense document, approved by the Abe cabinet on August 5, saysChinese ships and aircraft have engaged in "dangerous activities" indisputed areas such as the South China and East China Seas, and these couldhave "unintended consequences."
China's Defense Ministry quickly rejected the Japanese claim, calling it simply anexcuse for Japan's own military expansion. It said it strongly opposed Japan's"ignorance of facts" and its "groundless accusations" aboutChina's military development.
Japan says China needs to be moretransparent about the reasons behind what Tokyo calls a "broad andrapid" buildup of Chinese military might. It says China hasn't been clearabout the rationale for its expansion.
READ: Asiansuperpowers jostle to join carrier club
In the air, China already has morefrontline fighters than Japan, with the Chinese combat arsenal includingadvanced Russian SU-27 and SU-30 planes, and the domestic J10, J11 and J16.Japan has about 260 planes, including about 200 F15s, its mainstay fighter.Qualitatively, Japan still is seen to have an edge because of its closeintegration with the Japan-based U.S. military forces, in areas such as earlywarning, electronic warfare and refueling. By 2018, that air superiority couldtilt to China, depending on how smoothly the roll-out proceeds respectively forChina's J20 and the Japanese variant of the U.S. F35.
For the United States, the China-Japandefense spending spat is another point of Asia-Pacific regional tension. Theadministration of U.S. President Barack Obama wants to expand and maintain goodrelations with China, but is mindful that Japan hosts most of the key U.S.forward bases in the region. Plus there is a powerful economic incentive:Asia-Pacific continues to be a major focus of arms sales for the U.S., incompetition with Russia, some European suppliers, and China itself.
READ: Can Abemanage China tensions?
According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI),global military spending last year was about $1.75 trillion, with the top 15nations accounting for about $1.4 trillion of that. It ascribed a figure of$640 billion to the U.S. in 2013, followed by China on $188 billion. Russiaranked third, with a 2013 spend of about $88 billion, ahead of Saudi Arabia($67 billion), France ($61 billion), UK ($58 billion), and Germany ($48.8billion). Japan, India and South Korea ranked 8th, 9th and 10th in 2013,according to SIPRI's calculations.
U.S. military spending declined in2013 and is budgeted to fall again in the year to September 2014 to about $526billion. In contrast, SIPRI says that China, Russia and Saudi Arabia have morethan doubled their military spending since 2004.
China and Japan have along-standing territorial dispute in the East China Sea over a group of islandsknown in Japan as the Senkakus and in China as the Diaoyutai. The islands lieabout 111 miles (180 kilometers) northeast of Taiwan and about 248 miles (400kilometers) west of Okinawa.
The area has seen a number of airand sea confrontations in recent years -- a point highlighted in the Japanesedefense white paper. It says: "China has intruded into Japaneseterritorial waters frequently and violated Japan's airspace by its governmentships and aircraft belonging to maritime law-enforcement agencies, and hasengaged in dangerous activities that could cause unintended consequences, suchas its vessel's direction of a fire control radar at a JMSDF destroyer, theflight of fighters abnormally close to JSDF aircraft, and its announcement ofestablishing the 'East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone' based on itsown assertion thereby infringing the freedom of overflight over the highseas."
In response, a Chinese Foreign Ministryspokesperson said on August 8 that there was "nothing disputable"about China carrying out "normal maritime and air activities which areconsistent with international laws and relevant domestic laws andregulations." The spokesperson said China was exercising its legitimaterights and interests in establishing the East China Sea ADIZ, and was "inconformity with international laws and common practices."
Japan also has a territorialdispute with South Korea over the Takeshima/Dokdo group of islands in the Seaof Japan/East Sea. South Korea complained that the Japanese defense white paperincluded the disputed islets as Japanese territory and called on Japan towithdraw what it termed an "unjust claim."
Further south, in the South ChinaSea, China is in dispute with Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei,Indonesia and Taiwan over competing claims to various islets and rockyoutcrops.
jorgii0550 • 4 hours ago
China has become filthy rich by stealing other nationsproducts, technology and R&D.....now they move on to stealing theirneighbor's lands....
Arms race among Asian Nations is the reality now in Asia.Precious resources/funds which should have been used to improve peoples livesare now being wasted on Arms .
China's greediness is the cause of all this mess.
Yamatosenkan • 9 minutes ago
Japan's defense budget has remained stable, around 1% ofGDP, and the last increase is minimal. In contrast, China's"defense"budget has been growing with double digits -although exactlyhow much is unknown, since the communists are very secretive about it.
Twenty years ago, East-Asia was a pretty safe region with alow risk of conflict. Now we see Chinese territorial claims enforced by dailyincursions by Chinese ships and jets, violating international laws and norms.All this is accompanied by the shrill propaganda of the CCP.
Other Asian countries are just doing the best they can inthe face of Chinese aggression.
Canmav • 4 hours ago
China can spend money on "defense" but otherscannot? Rubbish
Brian • 4 hours ago
Kinda silly for china to be doing a massive military buildup and tell it's neighbors not to. Is that really sane?
gary • 4 hours ago
All this is a conspiracy of the United States, the use ofAsian countries to contain China's rise, he feared the rise of China tochallenge his world police status, the United States is rubbish and DOG
I.R.H. • 3 hours ago
I'm on Japan's side. They, like most other Asian nationsare worried about China's increased aggression in the South China sea. Mostrecently the Chinese have been using large naval ships as weapons againstVietnamese fishermen. Japan has been forging cooperative naval alliances withIndia which is a good thing. India has been allied with the USA on the sea fordecades as has Japan. New alliances are being formed throughout the ASEANnations in order to combat military belligerence.
AlisterWang • 3 hours ago
Everyone is paying so much attention to China.
You don't have to and should not have done so.
conrus • 3 hours ago
China == Russia == ISIS/Hamas/Syria/Tibet/Crimea/Al Queda
All of them are same sheet
jj • 3 hours ago
Well, U.S. can export more weapons to Asia, and gain more"allies", good for business and national security.
U.S. always thrive on conflicts over the world, so long asits not on U.S. soil,
adreko • an hour ago
Boycott Chinese Toxic Products !!!
HerbertTheJew • 2 hours ago
Can never forgive the Japanese for what they did
lixirf • 2 hours ago
At least few countries dare to declare war on china, andmust be cautious when talk about china whether you like or dislike ,which isimpossible in the past hundreds years.
Lewis • an hour ago
Amerca: we must place bases in Asia in order to defend ourally Japan.
Japan: we must expand our military to defend our ally America.
A lot of defending going on here.