The Japanese Cabinet has triggered an angry response from its Asian neighbors after it approved an annual defense white paper, a document that in belligerent terms accuses China of raising regional tensions.
Analysts said the tone of the paper, which rules out making concessions and was delayed for a week so that a tougher stance against China could be adopted, signifies a shift in Japan’s perceptions, attitudes and responses to its position in Asia and the world.
The 429-page document starts with a section on regional concerns, the longest part of which is devoted to China.
Japan will continue to apply “high pressure” on China’s maritime presence in areas such the South China Sea and will continue to offer no concessions, the paper says.
China’s Ministry of Defense said on July 21: “The paper tarnishes the image of China’s military, and China expresses strong dissatisfaction and firm opposition.
“Japan is not a stakeholder in the South China Sea issue and should not damage peace and stability.”
Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said it is China’s inherent right to implement patrols around China’s Diaoyu Islands, and it “will continue to take necessary measures to resolutely champion territorial sovereignty”.
Shortly after the report’s release, South Korea’s Defense Ministry summoned Nobuhisa Goto, a defense attache at the Japanese embassy in Seoul, and lodged a protest, the Seoul-based Yonhap News Agency reported.
The white paper laid claims to the islands that South Korea calls Dokdo and Japan calls Takeshima, and the South Korean Foreign Ministry said in a statement that this is “an act of denying the history of invasion of the Korean Peninsula and of Japan’s past imperialism”.
The assertiveness displayed in the paper is also seen in the new security bills that were passed by the lower house of Japan’s legislature on July 16.
If the bills are approved by the upper house, they will enable the country to engage in what it calls collective self-defense. This could involve sending Japanese troops to fight overseas for the first time in the country’s postwar history.
Zhou Yongsheng, a professor of Japan studies at China Foreign Affairs University, said “Japan’s defense policy will soon undergo a major change by breaking away from the focus on self-defense” if the Japanese upper house approves the bills.
The white paper was delayed partly because the ruling coalition complained that the original draft was too soft on China, and the coalition demanded the inclusion of additional examples of China’s maritime activities, Japan’s Kyodo News agency reported.
Lyu Yaodong, an expert on Japan’s foreign policy at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said, “Japan is shifting from being a pacifistic country to one capable of waging a war.”