By Konstantin Garibov
Japan has issued its annual defense report which dedicates separate chapters to Russia, China and six more countries, including both Koreas. Among other things, the paper focuses on Russia’s military presence in the Far East and its ability to react to China’s expansion.
Japan’s defense report says that Moscow is still focused on boosting its influence worldwide. As an argument Tokyo mentions military exercises Russia regularly hosts off the Japanese coast. The report adds, however, that Russia`s military presence in the Far East has been decreased if compared to the periods of the most fierce confrontation in the North-Eastern Asia. The authors of the report also mention the modernization of the Russian army and its intention to place the most up-to-date arms and equipment on the Kuril Islands.
Concerns over Russia’s plans to make its Pacific Fleet stronger did not, however, force Tokyo to reconsider the issue of a potential threat coming from Russia, which was removed from the agenda in the mid-1990s. The report refers to the islands of Greater Kuril Ridge and Lesser Kuril Ridge as ‘Japan’s sovereign territories’. This, however, looks more like an attempt to keep up with the present-day political situation rather than a serious territorial claim.
Japan is still concerned about China`s growing defense expenses and its ambitious plan to take back the Senkaku Islands (known as the Diaoyu Islands in Japan). Shortly before the release of the defense paper, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said that his country was ready to react to Beijing`s ‘illegal activities’ by using force. Expert for the Institute of the Far Eastern Studies Viktor Pavlyatenko comments.
“Japan said that it would resort to a military solution if needed to protect its security. Tokyo also confirmed that it views Beijing as a source of threat for the entire region. Actually, that was not a statement expected from a diplomat. It means that the sides have exhausted all opportunities to settle the territorial dispute or at least to smooth it. I, for one, do not think that either of the sides will unleash a war.”
China denied allegations that it was increasing its military presence in the region, saying that it was busy fulfilling routine tasks outlined in its defense agenda. Beijing, however, did not miss a chance to accuse Tokyo of strengthening its military ties with allies. The U.S. and South Korea were not mentioned directly. Nevertheless, shortly before Japan`s defense report was released, Beijing blamed Washington for the escalation of tensions over territorial disputed in the South China Sea and the East China Sea. This is how China responded to the U.S. statement which said that in case the dispute between Tokyo and Beijing over the islands comes to a deadlock, the US-Japanese Treaty on Cooperation and Security could be used.
Being Japan`s ally, South Korea has, however, voiced its protest over the report. Seoul is outraged to learn that the report contains territorial claims over Dokdo Island (known as Takeshima in Japan).