By MARTIN FACKLER
TOKYO — Japan announced a new defense policy on Friday that will respond to China’s rising military might by building more submarines and other mobile forces capable of defending Japan’s southernmost islands.
The new National Defense Program Guidelines are the biggest step yet in a decade-long shift away from cold war-era deployments of heavy tank and artillery units on the northern island of Hokkaido — to counter a now-vanished Soviet threat — and toward bolstering Japanese forces in the southern islands around Okinawa, where China’s navy has become a growing presence.
The new guidelines also used uncharacteristically strong language to warn of China’s rapidly modernizing military, calling it “a matter of concern for the region and the international community.” China’s growing naval capabilities have been a particular concern in Japan since Beijing and Tokyo clashed diplomatically three months ago over uninhabited islands claimed by both nations but controlled by Japan. The islands are called the Senkaku in Japanese and Diaoyu in Chinese.
In Beijing, the Foreign Ministry criticized the new policy as “irresponsible” and suggested that it was based on a misunderstanding of China’s intentions. “China adheres to the road of peaceful development and pursues a defensive national defense policy,” Jiang Yu, the Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, said in a statement. “We have no intention to be a threat to anyone.”The new policy called for increasing the number of Japan’s submarines to 22 from the current 16, while reducing the number of tanks by a third to about 400. It also called for creating more mobile forces, which analysts have said could include creating new air and seaborne units that could quickly move to defend remote islands.
* Text sent from Rick Rozoff
December 17, 2010
Japan shifts defence focus to China, N.Korea