Japan downgrades importance of security cooperation with S. Korea in 2019 defense white paper

Posted on : 2019-08-22 15:59 KST Modified on : 2019-10-19 20:29 KST
Yomiuri Shimbun reports Korea is behind US, Australia, India, and ASEAN in importance
The Japanese military conducts a test flight of its Mitsubishi X-2 Shinshin
The Japanese military conducts a test flight of its Mitsubishi X-2 Shinshin

In its draft of this year’s defense white paper, the Japanese government has downgraded the priority of security cooperation with South Korea, a Japanese newspaper says.

On Aug. 21, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported that in the section of the 2019 draft white paper about security cooperation with countries other than the US, Japan’s only military ally, South Korea is listed fourth, following Australia, India, and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). In the 2018 defense white paper, South Korea was listed second, after Australia. This revision appears to have been affected by the recent souring of relations between Japan and South Korea.

The draft also brought up an incident that occurred in December 2018 when a South Korean naval vessel allegedly aimed its fire control radar on a Japanese patrol plane in the East Sea, calling on Seoul to prevent such an incident from reoccurring. The South Korean military rebutted Japan’s claims about the fire control radar and countered that Japan’s patrol plane had in fact made a threatening low-altitude flight over the South Korean ship.

According to the Yomiuri Shimbun, this draft is the first white paper to acknowledge that North Korea appears to have successfully miniaturized nuclear warheads. Until last year, the white paper only cited the possibility that the North had acquired such a capacity. The draft white paper retained previous language about North Korea posing a “serious and imminent threat.”

The defense white paper is expected to be formally confirmed in a meeting of the Japanese cabinet in the middle of September.

Japanese defense budget expected to hit new high for sixth consecutive year

Next year, Japan’s defense budget is expected to hit a new high for the sixth year in a row. On Wednesday, Japanese broadcaster NHK reported that Japan’s Ministry of Defense would be requesting a defense budget of 5.3 trillion yen (US$49.8 billion) for 2020; the overall framework of the budget having been completed, it has now started sorting out the details. Japan’s defense budget this year was 5.26 trillion yen (US$49.41 billion).

Next year’s defense budget will likely include the cost of retrofitting the Izumo-class multi-purpose destroyers, the largest ships in the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force, as de facto aircraft carriers; of acquiring F35B fighters, which are supposed to be based on the Izumo-class ships; of purchasing electronic warfare equipment to neutralize opponents’ communication equipment; and of setting up a space force.

The cost of developing a next-generation fighter for the Japan Air Self-Defense Force will reportedly be included as a line on the budget, though the amount hasn’t been specified yet. The exact amount is supposed to appear in the government budget bill, which will be drafted at the end of this year. The total cost of development is expected to exceed 1.5 trillion won (US$1.24 billion), the Yomiuri Shimbun said.

This next-generation aircraft — which will be Japan’s first locally developed stealth fighter — will be rolled out in the mid-2030s, which is when the 90 F2 fighters currently in service will begin to be retired. In the mid-2030s, Japan plans for its air force to consist of 147 F-35s, 100 F-15s, and 90 next-generation fighters.

By Cho Ki-weon, Tokyo correspondent

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