RECTIFYING DEFENSE-ONLY POLICY ALONE WILL NOT SAFEGUARD JAPAN’S SECURITY
The mindset of Russian dictator Vladimir Putin is said to be explained by “MICE”—the acronym for Money, Ideology, Coercion, and Ego. The propensity to regard these factors as the principal power to influence others is reportedly typical of former intelligence officers of the KGB (the main security agency for the former Soviet Union). Putin had served in the KGB for 16 years (1975-1991).
More than seven weeks into Russia’s incursion into Ukraine at this writing, the British Government estimated on May 25 that Russia had spent between US$20 and 30 billion a day since February 24 when it launched its comprehensive attack. Pointing out that Russia’s annual national revenue amounts to only 25 trillion rubles (US$247 billion), US Admiral James Stavrides, former Supreme Allied Commander of NATO, was quoted as saying Putin would be “broke before losing the support of the people of Russia.”
Eager to create a breakthrough in his war, Putin on April 9 appointed Army General Alexander Dvornikov, commander of Russia’s southern Military District, as theater commander of the Russian military campaign in Ukraine. Known as “the Butcher of Syria,” the 60-year-old general was put in charge of Russia’s military operations in Syria in 2015. He turned the tables for the administration of President Bashar al-Assad, obliterating anti-Assad forces in rebel-held eastern Aleppo. Dvornikov was held accountable for the deaths of numerous innocent Syrian citizens by launching indiscriminate attacks on military and civic facilities that led to an influx of an estimated 6.6 million refugees across Europe from Syria.
Putin has withdrawn his troops from Kyiv and other Northern Ukrainian regions as of this moment, repositioning them for new battles to be commanded by Dvornikov. The Ukrainian side has declared they are prepared for “large-scale military operations” in Donbas, with President Volodymyr Zelensky defiantly vowing to take the offensive. “If we don’t take the offensive, we will be beat into a weaker position,” Zelensky said.
The West’s support of Ukraine has entered a new stage. On April 8, Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Union, visited Kyiv for a meeting with Zelensky, pledging to speed his nation’s bid to become a member of the EU. The following day, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson paid a surprise visit to Kyiv, announcing Britain would provide 120 armored vehicles anew as well as new anti-ship missile systems to the Ukrainian military. Earlier on the same day, Austrian Prime Minister Karl Nehammer traveled from Vienna to meet with Zelensky en route to Moscow for a one-on-one meeting with Putin.
China’s Sinister Assertions
More and more military equipment has been delivered to Ukraine. Poland has decided to provide Ukraine its Soviet-made tanks, as Washington will offer Warsaw 250 state-of-the-art Abrams M1A2 SEPv3 battle tanks and supporting equipment to fill the gap. Poland is also expected to deliver the S-300 anti-aircraft missile system to Ukraine in the same format, according to Masahisa Sato, head of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the ruling Liberal-Democratic Party (LDP). Comments Sato:
“All Eastern European nations are dying to obtain the PAC-3. While many of them are still using the S-300 missile system developed in the Soviet times, Poland is eager to hand its S-300 system to Ukraine and get the PAC-3 from the US instead.”
A PAC-3 system has been brought into an air base in Poland near the Ukrainian border, where American troops have already been deployed temporarily. The US has the strategy to avoid permanently basing its troops in Poland in order to be able to grapple more squarely with the threat from China. Giving Poland the anti-aircraft system therefore matches its policy.
The US will also equip the Ukrainian Army with 100 Switchblade 300 tactical unmanned aerial vehicles. With a range of some six miles, a Switchblade 300 is a powerful weapon capable of smashing targets, such as light armored vehicles. The West’s support for Ukraine has clearly switched from defensive to offensive in recent weeks.
Behind the marked enhancement of military aid to Ukraine undoubtedly lies the discovery of bodies of numerous massacred Ukrainian citizens in the northern city of Bucha following the Russian Army’s retreat. One should naturally assume that many more citizens have been massacred in a host of other cities and towns across Ukraine. Criticism in the international community against the inhumane Russian acts has been increasing along with anti-Russian sentiments. While it is a matter of course for we Japanese to extend full support to Ukraine, we should not lose sight of the importance of addressing the potential threat from China.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has yet to criticize Russia for invading Ukraine, asserting that the Ukrainian issue must be settled through talks between Russia and Ukraine, that the US and NATO must engage Russia in dialogue, and that multi-national sanctions against Russia must be lifted. China continues to keep in step with Russia, claiming that NATO’s eastward expansion is the origin of the Ukrainian problem.
China has developed these assertions purely on the basis of how a situation could be created that would be advantageous to Beijing should it threaten to launch an armed attack on Taiwan. In other words, China is demanding that Taipei negotiate with Beijing in that case. In the absence in the Asia-Pacific of a military alliance similar to NATO in Europe, there would primarily be only two nations that would come to Taiwan’s aid—the US which is bound by the Taiwan Relations Act to protect Taiwan, and Japan, committed to the US-Japan alliance under the terms of the US-Japan Security Treaty. But one wonders to what extent the US would be able to safeguard Taiwan’s security under the Act, which is not a formal military alliance. Taiwan’s position is indeed extremely precarious.
China persistently puts a check on the international sanctions imposed on Russia and maintains there has been “no actual evidence that atrocities have been committed by the Russian Army in Ukraine,” because that is exactly how it would plan to address international criticism if it were in a similar position.
Acquiring Japan’s Own Nuclear Weapons?
An attack on Taiwan would be no different from an attack on Japan itself, and its danger appears imminent. What is there for Japan to do then? Itsunori Onodera, former defense minister and head of the LDP’s Security Investigation Committee charged with recommending ways to bolster Japan’s self-defense capabilities, has this to say:
“At our meeting on April 11, we reached a conclusion that we should explain to the people of Japan as precisely as possible the flaws of our defense-only security policy. Our ‘defense-only security’ tends to give one the impression that so long as Japan keeps peace, other nations will not attack us so our peace can be preserved. But that is a gross misconception. Members of our committee have agreed that the people of Japan must be told that our security policy has been formulated on the premise that Japan is entitled to a counterattack only after some harm has first been done to Japan.”
A significant step forward, I must say. And yet one cannot but be appalled by how removed we Japanese are from the harsh geopolitical reality of today.
I believe Onodera’s committee deserves credit for agreeing that Japan should have the capabilities to attack central functions of its adversaries, not just bases, when it develops first-strike capabilities based on the right of self-defense.
The UK has warned that Putin’s forces could use white phosphorous (WP) munitions, designated as an inhumane weapon, as part of the bombardment of the southeastern Ukrainian port city of Mariupol. On April 11, the British Ministry of Defense announced that WP had already been used in Donetsk State. Zelensky announced WP killed more than 20,000 innocent citizens of Mariupol. Russia has created hell on the earth.
China and North Korea are no different from Russia in dealing with nations they target. I don’t think it enough for Japan, surrounded by chemical weapons of these autocracies and exposed to the menace of their nuclear weapons and missiles, to only review our exclusively defensive security policy and bolster our offensive capabilities to safeguard our security. Haven’t LDP’s security experts discussed bolstering expanded nuclear deterrence by the US, a nuclear sharing, and Japan’s possible possession of its own nuclear weapons? Onodera told me members of his committee expressed absolutely no opinions favoring a nuclear sharing with the US, much less Japan’s possession of nuclear weapons of its own. As regards extended nuclear deterrence by the US, Onodera said a conclusion has been reached that the matter should be taken up for further discussions at the cabinet level.
But Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is a politician who thinks little of retreating from the
traditional government and LDP position as regards the “three non-nuclear principles” (non-possession, non-production, and non-introduction), having declared that these principles are indeed Japan’s national ethos. To what extent would it be realistic to expect our cabinet ministers, who have been appointed by the same prime minister, to conduct in-depth discussions of extended deterrence and other nuclear-related matters? It would be nothing but an evasion of responsibility on the part of the ruling party if it only throws this important problem at the government and then refuses to engage in ardent discussions to pursue the matter further. As a responsible political party, the LDP must conduct pertinent discussions under all circumstances.
(Translated from “Renaissance Japan” column no. 996 in the April 21, 2022 issue of The Weekly Shincho)