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Japan's 2010 Defense White Paper, scheduled for the end of July meeting, was examined and approved by the Cabinet on September 10. It was the first defense white paper unveiled by the government led by the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) after assuming office.
The annual white paper released last Friday stresses the vital role played by US military forces stationed in Japan in "protecting" the nation, and elaborated the defense situation over the southwest archipelago as well as the situation on the Korean Peninsula. Moreover, a private advisory panel to Prime Minister Naoto Kan submitted a report on August 27 calling for changing Japan from a "passive peace-loving nation to a "proactive peace-loving nation".
The 488-page Defense of Japan 2010 report also underscores Japan's bilateral security alliance with the United States, noting that US military presence in Japan was significant in providing deterrence against a possible attack on Japan.
What changes have taken place in Japan's defense policy? The final report, submitted by Prime Minister Naoto Kan's private advisory panel, seems much more distinct and clear-cut than the annual white paper, and it has used such key phrases as initiate response, positive deterrence, the shared Japan-US responsibilities and off-shore defense, etc.
At the same time, it proposes breaking through certain defense basic policies, getting rid of the traditional security routes, revising the related forbids to exercise the "collective self-defense right", including suggesting to revise the current interpretations of the Constitution that "forbade the exercise of the right of collective self-defense" and the "three principles outlawing weapons exports" that had served to symbolize Japan's image as a pacifist nation.
In addition, the report, like the 2010 annual white paper, has exaggerated the so-called "lack of transparency of China's military forces and its intention", and suggested stepping up the military deployment in southwest archipelago and the Japan-US defense alliance or cooperation.
However, it remains unclear to what extent the Japanese government will accept this report as a basis for revising the new defense program. But people may have obtained a limited view from it. DPJ said before taking office that it will examine carefully the national security policies once it is in power, but it has so far kept to the beaten track of the coalition government led by LDP on the whole. It indicates that DPJ and LDP do not differ widely on their national security policies, or the "big politics", and have obtained the minimal "threshold" mutual recognition of the general orientation, such as beefing up the military forces, enhancing an alliance with the US, and efforts to guard against China and to head outbound for overseas, etc.
Besides, Japan's security policies, to look at from the historical field of vision, are alive with a strong nature of continuity with its own objective law, and they are not related much to the change of power or prime ministers. Since the end of the cold war, Japan is moving gradually and objectively toward the goal of "military normalization", under an alterative impetus of the two political lines for "radical conservatives" and "conservatives in evolution".
In spite of some differences in the ways, degrees and opportunities of the impetus, the mainstream evolution tendency is quite distinct. The first is to raise the self-defense capabilities and to carry out the essential reform on various restrictive factors; the second is to play a role in regional and international security affairs; the third is to maintain and reinforce the Japan-US alliance and simultaneously to strive for parity with the US in the coalition framework and, the fourth is to step up precautions and stay in balance while pressing ahead with dialogues and coordination.
Some radical concepts, which call for transforming basic defense policies, have been drawn criticisms and opposition inside Japan. Many mainstream media and local newspapers pointed out that the report that abandons the national policy of sole defense is not in compliance with the current situation and, therefore, it is harmful rather than helpful.
The Japanese newspaper "Asahi Shimbun" says in an editorial that there is the lack of essential reasons to exaggerate threats and its own military preparedness, and this will could cause the arms races and aggravate frictions in the region.
Japan's "new defense program outline", which a government panel of experts would hopefully complete by the end of 2010, is the first defense program the DPJ government has formulated, and it will possibly determine the framework and basic trends of Japan's defense and security policy in the next five to 10 years.