Japan promotes China as bigger threat than nuclear-armed North Korea

Chinese soldiers practice marching in formation ahead of military parade to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China in Beijing on Sept. 25, 2019.(Naohiko Hatta/Pool Photo via AP)
Updated 27 September 2019

Japan promotes China as bigger threat than nuclear-armed North Korea

  • Japan has raised defense spending by a tenth over the past seven years to counter military advances by Beijing and Pyongyang
  • To stay ahead of China’s modernizing military, Japan is buying US-made stealth fighters and other advanced weapons

TOKYO: China’s growing military might has replaced North Korean belligerence as the main security threat to Japan, Tokyo’s annual defense review indicated on Thursday, despite signs that Pyongyang could have nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles.
The document’s security assessment on China comes after a section on Japan’s ally, the United States, the first time Beijing has achieved second place in the Defense White Paper and pushing North Korea into third position.
Russia, deemed by Japan as its primary threat during the Cold War, was in fourth place.
“It is a reflection of the fact that only United States and China can project their influence globally,” a Ministry of Defense official told a news briefing.
Japan has raised defense spending by a tenth over the past seven years to counter military advances by Beijing and Pyongyang, including defenses against North Korean missiles which may carry nuclear warheads, the paper said.
North Korea has conducted a series of short-range missile launches that Tokyo believes show Pyongyang is developing projectiles to evade its Aegis ballistic missile defenses.
To stay ahead of China’s modernizing military, Japan is buying US-made stealth fighters and other advanced weapons.
In its latest budget request, Japan’s military asked for 115.6 billion yen ($1.1 billion) to buy nine Lockheed Martin F-35 stealth fighters, including six short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) variants to operate from converted helicopter carriers.
The stealth jets, US-made interceptor missiles and other equipment are part of a proposed 1.2% rise in defense spending to a record 5.32 trillion yen in the year starting April 1.
By comparison, Chinese military spending is set to rise this year by 7.5% to about $177 billion from 2018, more than three times that of Japan. Beijing is developing weapons such as stealth fighters and aircraft carriers that are helping it expand the range and scope of military operations.
Once largely confined to operating close to the Chinese coast, Beijing now routinely sends its air and sea patrols near Japan’s western Okinawa islands and into the Western Pacific.
China has frequently rebuffed concerns about its military spending and intentions, including a ramped up presence in the disputed South China Sea, and says it only desires peaceful development.
The Defense White Paper said Chinese patrols in waters and skies near Japanese territory are “a national security concern.”
The paper downgraded fellow US ally, South Korea, which recently pulled out of an intelligence sharing pact with Japan amid a spat over their shared wartime history. The move could weaken efforts to contain North Korean threats, analysts said.
Other partners, including Australia, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and India, feature more prominently in the defense paper.
“It’s a reflection of the level of cooperation we undertake with each partner,” the defense ministry official said.


Malaysia’s police chief: Daesh fighters ‘must be allowed to come back’

Updated 5 min 32 sec ago

Malaysia’s police chief: Daesh fighters ‘must be allowed to come back’

KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysian government has still to decide whether a reported 40 Daesh members of Malaysian origin — including women and children — should be allowed to return to their homeland from Syria. But the Inspector-General of Police of Malaysia Abdul Hamid Bador told Arab News on Thursday, “They are Malaysians and the must be allowed to come back.”
Bador stressed that any returning Daesh members would be charged under Malaysia’s Security Offenses Act and would have to undergo the country’s deradicalization program. But while many Malaysians are opposed to allowing the hard-line militants to return home, Bador said, “As a sovereign nation, Malaysia must fulfill her international obligations. We will undertake the responsibility of subjecting all of them to our rehabilitation programs.”
At a press conference on Saturday, Malaysia’s Special Branch Anti-Terrorist Division principal assistant director Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay said that Daesh returnees would undergo rehabilitation, which would include counseling for the children.
Many Malaysians believe that the Daesh returnees will pose a threat to national security and should not be allowed to return.
“In principle, they are the citizens (of Malaysia), so they have a right to come back,” Dr. James Dorsey, a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University and senior research fellow at the National University of Singapore’s Middle East Institute, told Arab News. “But, in having to fulfill that obligation, obviously the question arises whether or not they broke the law, and to what degree they pose a threat.”
Dorsey warned that “not all deradicalization programs are 100-percent effective,” but said he believed that rehabilitation would enable people to reenter society to some degree.
“The assumption is that they went to Syria to fight, so now that Syria is no longer available they are going to come home to fight. But we don’t know that for a fact,” he said. “That may be true for some, but not for others. It is really going to be a question of evaluating every single one. We need to deal with each of them differently. Sending them to rehabilitation might be one way to resolve this.”
“There are no magic tricks involved in the programs,” Bador said to Arab News. Their success, he said, depended on coordination between the police, the religious department, and prison officers. “We are also thankful that the prisoners themselves have the willpower to return to society,” he added.
Malaysia claims that its deradicalization program is one of the most successful in the world — a model for the fight against terrorism and religious extremism, in which religious institutions play an equally important role during the rehabilitation process.
“Malaysia prides itself to having achieved a 97 percent success rate which indicates that occurrences of recidivism are minimal,” said Muhammad Sinatra, an analyst at Malaysia’s Institute of Strategic and International Studies.
He told Arab News that Daesh returnees would serve time in prison, and would —  along with the women and children — be enrolled in a month-long rehabilitation program by the government.
“The women and children must have suffered from witnessing horrendous violence and losing their loved ones during their time in Syria and Iraq,” Sinatra said. “This is on top of the physical toll that years spent in conflict zones will have taken. It will take a tremendous effort by psychologists and doctors to address the physical and mental issues these returnees face.”
Sinatra added that it is imperative that the government hear testimonies from current Daesh prisoners — or preferably those who have been released — about the effectiveness of the rehabilitation program in order to obtain a more holistic picture of its success.