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Politics & Security

EDITORIAL| China and Russia’s Military Flights Gauging Japan’s Defense Preparedness

While the core of the problem is the insolent behavior of China and Russia, it is also a fact that Japan has fallen short of building an effective deterrence.

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Chinese and Russian armed forces are actively carrying out coordinated military maneuvers with air force and naval vessels around the Japanese islands under the name of “joint patrols.”

Their actions pose an outright threat to Japan that is wholly unacceptable. The Fumio Kishida administration must be on guard against military cooperation between Beijing and Moscow, and bolster the nation’s defensive readiness. 

On November 19, four Chinese and Russian strategic bombers flew over the East China Sea southward from the Sea of Japan, altering the direction just before reaching skies over the Senkaku Islands, Ishigaki City, Okinawa Prefecture, and then advanced into the Pacific by passing over the Miyako Strait between Okinawa’s main island and Miyako Island. Subsequently, the bombers headed back to the East China Sea.

Japan then scrambled Air Self-Defense Force’s fighter jets against the Chinese and Russian bombers to ensure there was no violation of Japan’s airspace.

Chinese and Russian strategic bombers are capable of being loaded with weapons such as anti-ship and cruise missiles furnished with either nuclear and nonnuclear warheads. In a contingency, their role is to assault an enemy’s important infrastructure, such as key cities and ports as well as naval vessels and military bases.

China and Russia flew six strategic bombers on a similar route in December 2020. In October 2021, a combination of 10 Chinese and Russian naval vessels sailed around most of the Japanese archipelago.

In addition, a Chinese Naval survey ship intruded into Japanese territorial waters near the Yakushima Island and Kuchino-Erabu Island in Kagoshima Prefecture on the night of November 17.

The situation is that China and Russia, both continental nations, are pushing their naval and air forces into waters and airspace surrounding Japan, threatening the security of this country as a maritime nation.

The core of the problem is the insolent behavior of China and Russia. However, it is also a fact that defense efforts of Japan have been insufficient so far, and have fallen short of building an effective deterrence. In turn, that is partly responsible for leading China and Russia to belittle Japan by bringing military pressure directly to bear on the country.

Japan has just installed a new prime minister and finished general elections for members of its House of Representatives. Beijing and Moscow might have been trying to use their military intimidation to gauge the security preparedness of the newly inaugurated Fumio Kishida administration. We want the Japanese government to give the people of Japan a clear and explicit explanation about the menace posed by China and Russia. 

Reject China’s Invitation

Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi appeared on a Fuji Television program on November 21 and said, “Our government has conveyed serious concern to both China and Russia about the continuing joint activities of their military forces near the Japanese archipelago from the standpoint of Japan’s security.”

The Japanese foreign minister has revealed that, in a teleconference on November 18, he was invited to visit Beijing by his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi, who is concurrently a state councilor of China.

The foreign minister, however, should not rush to visit a country that attempts to intimidate Japan with military bullying just after assuming his new office. Careful consideration is required before making decisions on any overseas visits by the foreign minister. 

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(Read the Sankei Shimbun editorial in Japanese at this link.)

Author: Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun