August 30, 2022
TOKYO – China’s military drills around Taiwan have highlighted the likelihood that Japan could become caught in a crisis in the event of a contingency. The government should reinforce preparations based on a variety of scenarios.
Upon U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taipei, Beijing repeatedly conducted exercises that simulate a blockade and invasion of Taiwan, with China poised to make such drills the norm. China also had some missiles fall into Japan’s exclusive economic zone.
Provocations that threaten regional stability cannot be tolerated. It is necessary to continue to urge China to stop the acts of intimidation.
Having said that, a Taiwan contingency is now no longer a pipe dream, so it is vital to confirm the government’s procedures for handling an emergency situation based on specific cases and formulate the Self-Defense Forces’ response plan.
In the event of a contingency, the SDF act in accordance with the security-related laws that came into force in 2016.
When the U.S. military is involved, the recognition of “a situation that has an important influence to Japan’s peace and security” is necessary for the SDF to provide logistics support such as supplies, and the recognition of a situation that “threatens Japan’s survival” is needed for the SDF to exercise the right to collective self-defense.
If Japan is attacked and it is recognized as an “armed attack” situation, the prime minister will issue a defense mobilization order to the SDF based on the right to individual self-defense.
Each situation is defined in detail. For instance, one case defined as threatening survival is when an armed attack occurs against a foreign country in a close relationship with Japan, which as a result threatens Japan’s existence. To respond to each situation, the Diet must give approval following procedures at the National Security Council and a Cabinet meeting.
If the government is slow to recognize a situation, the SDF’s activities will be limited. In the event of a contingency, if the SDF only manage to conduct investigations, research and information gathering in the same manner as during normal times, they will have failed to fulfill their defense mission.
The key will be whether the government is able to make decisions quickly. What kind of circumstances will be recognized as which situation? It is essential to keep simulating cases in normal times.
Regarding an armed attack situation, the problem is that gray areas, such as foreign troops disguising themselves as fishermen landing on a remote island, cannot be immediately determined as an attack on Japan.
It is important for the Japan Coast Guard, which is responsible for taking police action at sea, and the SDF, in charge of national defense, to work closely together and train on a daily basis.
On their own, the SDF have limits regarding their response to contingencies. Japan and the United States must share operational plans.
The evacuation of residents is another important task. The islands of Sakishima are home to 100,000 people. There are more than 20,000 Japanese nationals living in Taiwan. It is desirable for the government to establish a cooperative system with airlines and other entities to secure transportation capacity in the event of an emergency.
(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 29, 2022)