Japan flags China military’s policy role as potential risk

Posted on July 31, 2012

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Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) navy sailors stand in a line and wait to attend a ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, July 19, 2012. REUTERS/Jason Lee

Japan on Tuesday (Jul. 30, 2012) flagged as a potential risk a possible rise in Chinese military’s role in shaping Beijing’s foreign policy and said aspiring nuclear power North Korea remained a serious regional threat under its new leader.

In its annual defense white paper, Tokyo cited views that relations between China’s army and the Communist Party were “getting complex” and said they were a matter of concern. It did not elaborate on how ties between the military and Party had changed.

“This situation calls for attention as a risk management issue,” the paper said.

The report comes out at a time when China’s senior officers, intelligence advisers and maritime agency chiefs have been increasingly outspoken in calling for Beijing to take a tougher line in regional territorial disputes with rival claimants.

In referring to those disputes, which include a long-simmering row with Japan in the East China Sea, Tokyo’s views echoed the findings of a 2011 paper which welcomed China’s growing role on the world stage while noting its increasingly aggressive moves.

“China has responded to conflicting issues involving Japan and other neighboring countries in a way that has been criticized as assertive, raising worries about its future direction.”

Just like a year ago, Tokyo also noted China’s rapid military build-up, particularly that of its navy, pointing out that Beijing’s defense budget has risen 30-fold in the past 24 years.

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As well as the Japan-China row over islets in the East China Sea, tensions have risen in the South China Sea as Beijing has become more assertive in its claim to the area in the face of opposition from neighboring countries.

The stakes have risen in the region as the U.S. military has shifted its attention and resources back to Asia in the past year.

In the white paper, Tokyo reaffirmed the importance of its alliance with the United States. “The presence of U.S. forces stationed in Japan functions as deterrent against regional contingencies, and it brings the sense of security to countries in the region,” it said.

The official reassurance comes against a backdrop of public protests against the planned deployment of U.S. Osprey military hybrid helicopter-planes to a U.S. Marine base in Okinawa, because of concerns about their safety.

And in its first defense white paper since Kim Jong-un took over the reins of power in Pyongyang, Japan said the secretive state’s militaristic strategy meant it remained a major security threat.

“After the death of National Defence Commission Chairman Kim Jong-il, First Chairman Kim Jong-un frequently visited the military and referred to the importance of the military. Its stance of regarding the military as important and relying on it will likely be maintained,” it said.

“North Korea is working hard to develop weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles … Moves like this are heightening tensions on the Korean peninsula and constituting a grave destabilizing factor for security in east Asia.”

Japan, along with South Korea, sit well within the range of the North’s medium-range Nodong missiles.

Reuters

Japan concerned by Chinese naval activity, lack of transparency in decision-making process

TOKYO — Japan is concerned that China’s increased naval operations in the western Pacific coupled with a lack of transparency over who sets the country’s military agenda are posing a security threat in the region, according to its annual defense report released Tuesday.

As Chinese operations in the waters around Japan are becoming a routine occurrence, the report said uncertainty over how much power the military has in the decision-making process compared to the Communist Party leadership makes it difficult to understand the military’s motives.

It said the strides China’s military has made toward becoming a more powerful and more modern force has complicated its relationship with the Communist Party, though it said it remains unclear to the outside world whether the military has a stronger or weaker voice in national decision-making.

“Some see that relations between the Chinese Communist Party leadership and the People’s Liberation Army have been getting complex,” it said. “Others see that the degree of military influence on foreign policy decisions has been changing.”

Japan has frequently criticized China in past reports for not being open enough about its military decision-making process, but Japanese Defense Ministry officials who briefed reporters said this is the first time it has raised the relationship between the military and the civilian leadership as an issue.

“China is still not living up to the expectations of transparency that would be hoped for from a great nation with responsibilities to the international community,” the report said.

The report noted that China’s defense budget has increased 30-fold over the past 24 years and that its navy is trying to improve its ability to operate in the open seas so that its ships can carry out missions farther away from its own shores.

It said that has meant more frequent Chinese activity in the East and South China Seas and “routine advancements to the Pacific Ocean by Chinese naval surface vessels.”

Chinese military activity has been evident lately in territorial disputes that have raised regional tensions. Japan and China are at odds over the Senkaku islands — called Diaoyu in Chinese — and China’s navy has been increasingly involved in disputes over islands in the South China Sea.

Associated Press

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