India on Thursday extended its support to Japan’s plans of expanding and modernising its defence forces, including “counterstrike capabilities”, in an apparent bid to deter an aggressive China.
A joint statement issued after the second India-Japan 2+2 foreign and defence ministerial meeting here said that the Japanese side expressed its determination to fundamentally reinforce Japan’s defence capabilities within the next five years and secure substantial increase of the country’s defence budget needed to effect it.
Japan also expressed “its resolve to examine all options necessary for national defence, including so called ‘counterstrike capabilities’,” the statement said without naming any country.
Acknowledging Japan’s determination to reinforce its defence capabilities, India expressed its support to work towards enhanced security and defence cooperation, it said.
In the recently published Defence of Japan 2022 document, the defence ministry has noted that as strategic competition between nations becomes more apparent against the backdrop of changes to the global power balance, the existing order is being exposed to serious challenges, especially in the Indo-Pacific region, which is at the centre of this competition.
The document cites particular concerns with what it describes as Chinese “coercion” and efforts to “change the status quo” in the East China Sea and South China Sea.
“In particular, China continues to unilaterally change or attempt to change the status quo by coercion in the East China Sea and South China Sea…Furthermore, China has made clear that it would not hesitate to unify Taiwan by force, further increasing tensions in the region,” the document noted.
China claims nearly all of the disputed South China Sea, while Taiwan, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam claim parts of it. Beijing has built artificial islands and military installations in the South China Sea.
The threat of China is brought close to home because of Taiwan’s proximity to Japan.
The document noted that China is relentlessly continuing unilateral attempts to change the status quo by coercion near the Senkaku Islands, leading to a matter of grave concern.
Japan has disputes with China over the Senkaku island chain in the East China Sea.
“In October 2021, Chinese and Russian warships conducted joint sails that circled around Japan. This exercise seemed to have been intended as a show of force against Japan.
“Chinese military trends, combined with insufficient transparency about China’s defence policies and military affairs, have become a matter of grave concern to the region including Japan and the international community, and these trends have been intensifying in recent years,” the document said.
The India-Japan 2+2 Foreign and Defence Ministerial Meeting was held between Defence minister Rajnath Singh, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, Japan’s Foreign Affairs Minister Hayashi Yoshimasa and Defence Minister Hamada Yasukazu.
Japan is already a member of the Quad, which includes India, the US and Australia, India — a strategic grouping considered by some as a counter to China’s growing influence in the Indo Pacific region.
Japan’s Constitution prohibits the country to maintain armed forces with war potential. Hence, Japan maintains Self-Defence Forces, a de facto defensive army with only strictly offensive weapons like ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons prohibited.
In 2014, the Japanese government gave more powers to the Self-Defence Forces, allowing them to defend other allies in case of war being declared upon them, despite concerns and disapproval from China and North Korea.
The Defence of Japan 2022 document also noted that North Korea has the capability to attack Japan with ballistic missiles carrying nuclear weapons, and it continues to develop ballistic missiles at an extremely rapid pace.
Military activities in North Korea “pose grave and imminent threats to Japan’s security and significantly undermine the peace and security of the region and the international community. This pattern has only intensified in recent years, and may potentially lead to further provocative actions,” the document said.