Japan’s defense minister vowed on Saturday to bolster the country’s deterrence capabilities and boost its alliance with the United States, citing Japan’s position as a frontline opponent of “rule-flouting actors.”
Speaking at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi said that Japan is at the frontline of “a competition” between countries defending the rules-based order and those attempting to change it by force.
“At present, not only is Japan surrounded by actors that both possess or are developing nuclear weapons and ignoring the rules, but also, year by year, they are becoming more open in their disregard for them,” he said.
Kishi said that Russia had intensified its military activities in the Far East and the Pacific, while China continued attempts to unilaterally change the status quo in the South and East China Seas.
The joint military activities between the two major military powers are “increasingly concerning,” he said, emphasizing the need to defend the stability of the Taiwan Strait, where Beijing has increased its military presence.
Kishi noted that Japan would secure the necessary defense budget and accelerate the reinforcement of defense capabilities.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has planned to increase the country’s defense spending to 2 percent of its gross domestic product within the next five years, according to the policy roadmap released by his administration on June 7.
“We will also further elevate the Japan–U.S. alliance, which is a foundation for peace and prosperity in the Indo–Pacific region, and we will strengthen its deterrence and response capabilities,” Kishi remarked.
Kishi also met with his Chinese counterpart Wei Fenghe on the sidelines of the Shangri-La Dialogue summit, during which he raised concerns about the Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning conducting military drills near Japan’s islands.
He urged China to exercise “restraint” in making unilateral attempts to change the status quo in the East China Sea, near the Japanese-controlled Senkaku Islands, which China also claims and calls the Diaoyu Islands.
During the meeting, Kishi reiterated that Taiwan’s security is important to Japan and the international community. The two ministers also agreed to promote defense dialogue, according to the Japanese Defense Ministry.
The escalation of Chinese military activities in East Asia has heightened Tokyo’s concerns about the self-ruled island. Taiwan, along with its neighbor, Japanese-controlled Okinawa, contain Beijing’s forces.
Eight Chinese naval vessels, including the Liaoning aircraft carrier, passed between islands in Japan’s southern Okinawa chain on May 2. Japan claimed that Chinese fighter jets took off from and landed on an aircraft carrier near Okinawa more than 100 times from May 3 to May 7.
In December 2021, former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe warned that an armed invasion of Taiwan would pose a serious threat to Japan, given that Japan’s Senkaku Islands, Sakishima Islands, and Yonaguni Island are only 100 kilometers (62 miles) from Taiwan.
“A Taiwan emergency is a Japanese emergency, and therefore an emergency for the Japan–U.S. alliance,” he said, adding that Japan and Taiwan must work together to protect freedom and democracy.