Japan warns of rising global tensions, Russia-China arms relations

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TOKYO — Japan warned of escalating national security threats stemming from Russia’s war on Ukraine and tensions between China and Taiwan in an annual defense brief released on Friday, as Japan is trying to boost its military capacity and spending.

The annual defense white paper, approved by Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s cabinet on Friday, stresses the need for Japan’s military buildup to address security concerns and seeks public support for a stronger military and budget increased, which Kishida’s ruling party aims to double in coming years.

The report comes months before a review of Japan’s national security strategy that is expected to include a pre-emptive strike capability, which critics say would go beyond the limits of Japan’s pacifist constitution.

China, Russia and North Korea top Japan’s security concerns in the 500-page report. Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi, in a statement in the report, said the Indo-Pacific region is “at the center” of international strategic competition.

The report calls Russia’s war on Ukraine a “serious violation of international law” and raises “concerns that the effects of such unilateral changes to the status quo by force could spread to the Indo- peaceful”.

Strategic competition between states has intensified amid a shifting global balance of power and is “further complicated by factors such as China’s broad and rapid military buildup”, the report said.

The newspaper doubled its content on Taiwan from a previous edition last year. This raised concerns about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and its impact on Asia, perhaps setting a precedent for what could happen between China and Taiwan.

The report finds growing tensions between Washington and Beijing over Taiwan, as the United States continues to send warships through the Taiwan Straits and sell weapons to Taipei, while Chinese warplanes are increasingly penetrating Taiwanese airspace.

China claims self-governing Taiwan as its own territory to be annexed by force if necessary.

Tokyo is also concerned about China’s “relentless” unilateral attempts to change the status quo “through coercion” near the Japanese-controlled East China Sea island it calls Senkaku, which Beijing also claims and calls Diaoyu.

China aims to build a “world-class military” and has accelerated the merging of military and civilian resources, according to the report.

In a new chapter devoted to Russia’s war against Ukraine, the report says Russia’s international isolation and war fatigue could heighten the importance of Moscow’s political and military cooperation with China.

The report said military cooperation between the two countries should be closely monitored as it could have a “direct impact” on Japan’s security.

China and Russia are stepping up joint operations and exercises involving their warships and military aircraft around Japan, while Beijing threatens to use force on Taiwan and escalate regional tensions, Kishi said.

Beijing criticized the Japanese defense newspaper, saying it exaggerated the Chinese military threat and interfered with China’s domestic policy with Taiwan, and reiterated its claim to disputed islands in the East China Sea.

“We urge Japan to stop touting security threats in its neighborhoods to justify its own military buildup,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said.

The report comes as Kishida’s government pledges to bolster Japan’s military capacity and budget under a revised national security strategy and core defense guidelines expected to be released later this year.

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party in Kishida has called for doubling Japan’s military spending to 2% of its GDP, in line with the NATO standard, to around 10 trillion yen ($72.6 billion) during of the next five years.

Recent media surveys have shown that the majority of the Japanese public supports increased defense spending and deterrence, including having a preemptive strike capability.

AP video producer Liu Zheng in Beijing contributed to this report.

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