Why China should be worried about Japan’s new hard stance

"As the security environment surrounding Japan becomes increasingly severe, we will set out a new National Security Strategy by the end of this year," Japan PM Kishida said.

Japan Prime Minister Fumio Kishida (left) speaks at the Shangri-La Dialogue security summit in Singapore. Photo: Twitter/Kishida230

At the Shangri-La Dialogue security summit in Singapore last week, Japan Prime Minister Fumio Kishida outlined the country’s plans to “fundamentally reinforce” defence capabilities within the next five years and did not rule out any options, including “counterstrike capabilities”.

Even China, it’s believed, is worried about Japan’s hard stance.

While delivering the keynote address, Kishida said the country would be “more proactive than ever” in tackling the challenges and crises that face Japan, Asia, and the world, and added that he was committed to “realism diplomacy for a new era”.

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Kishida’s comments come amid the rising threat of China in East Asia and the Indo-Pacific and the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war.

‘Ukraine today may be East Asia tomorrow’

While criticising Russia for invading Ukraine, Kishida said the “very foundations” of the international order were “shaken” by Moscow’s aggression against Kyiv and the international community now stood at “a historic crossroads”. He said, “Ukraine today may be East Asia tomorrow”.

Also read: Ukraine: Russia said to be using more deadly weapons in war

Without mentioning China in his speech, Kishida said, “As the security environment surrounding Japan becomes increasingly severe, we will set out a new National Security Strategy by the end of this year… The non-transparent build-up of military capacity, including nuclear arsenals, that can be seen in the vicinity of Japan has become a serious regional security concern.”

Kishida’s remarks come after China and Russia last month, on May 24, conducted a joint military exercise in the East China Sea while the QUAD summit was happening in Tokyo. Japanese Defence Minister Nobuo Kishi had said they had to scramble jets after “two Chinese bombers joined two Russian bombers in the Sea of Japan and made a joint flight to the East China Sea”.

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The Japanese PM said rules were not being “honoured” in the South China Sea. And, in the East China Sea, where Japan is located, he said, “Unilateral attempts to change the status quo by force in violation of international law are continuing. Japan is taking a firm stand against such attempts”.

“Peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, which is located between these two seas, is also of extreme importance,” he added.

China calls US ‘bully’

Last month, American President Joe Biden said that the US would intervene militarily if China were to invade Taiwan. “That’s the commitment we made,” he said.

At the Shangri-La-Dialogue on Sunday (June 12), Chinese Defence Minister Wei Fenghe accused the US of being a “bully” and “hijacking” countries around the region, and said his country would “fight to the very end” to stop Taiwanese independence, according to a CNN report.

“Taiwan is first and foremost China’s Taiwan,” Wei said and added that China would “not hesitate” to crush any attempt by the self-governed island to “secede”.

The Japanese PM, in order to maintain and strengthen the peaceful order in the region, spoke about the “Kishida Vision for Peace” with five pillars of initiatives.

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“The first is maintaining and strengthening the rules-based free and open international order; in particular, we will press forward in bringing new developments towards a Free and Open Indo-Pacific. The second is enhancing security. We will advance the fundamental reinforcement of Japan’s defence capabilities in tandem with reinforcing the Japan-U.S. Alliance and strengthening our security cooperation with other like-minded countries.

“The third is promoting realistic efforts to bring about a world without nuclear weapons. The fourth is strengthening the functions of the United Nations, including UN Security Council reform. The fifth is strengthening international cooperation in new policy areas such as economic security,” he said.

He also slammed North Korea for repeatedly launching ballistic missiles, including a new type of ICBM, with “unprecedented frequency and in new ways”.

Japan-US alliance

Despite talking about ‘counterstrike’, Kishida reiterated, “To all of you, I stress that Japan’s posture as a peace-loving nation will remain unchanged.”

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“I will seek to build a stable international order through dialogue, not confrontation. At the same time, however, we must be prepared for the emergence of an entity that tramples on the peace and security of other countries by force or threat without honouring the rules. As a means of preventing such situations and protecting ourselves, we need to enhance our deterrence and response capabilities. This will be absolutely essential if Japan is to learn to survive in the new era and keep speaking out as a standard-bearer of peace,” he added.

He also emphasised the Japan-US alliance. “No country can ensure its security entirely on its own. That is why I will promote multi-layered security cooperation with like-minded countries that share universal values, positioning the Japan-U.S. Alliance as the lynchpin.”

Free and open Indo-Pacific

Talking about the Indo-Pacific region, Kishida said, “Japan has been promoting a Free and Open Indo-Pacific with a view to maintaining and strengthening the rules-based free and open international order in this region, and the vision we have advocated has come to gain broad support in the international community. Japan has consistently and vigorously supported the ‘ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific’ (AOIP), which ASEAN has developed as its own basic policy.”

“Looking around the world, a variety of actors, including the United States, Australia, India, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and the European Union, have all laid out visions for the Indo-Pacific,” he stated.

Also read: Japan says Taiwan ties under 1 country, 2 systems policy

Kishida also called for a world without nuclear weapons and felt the threat of those weapons has increased with the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“The threat of nuclear weapons, let alone the use of them, should never be tolerated. As the prime minister of the only country that has suffered the devastation of atomic bombings, I strongly appeal for this… Together with countries concerned, we will encourage the US and China to engage in a bilateral dialogue on nuclear disarmament and arms control,” he said.