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Japan's military overseas plan raises concerns

Effective communication urged to prevent unforeseen circumstances

By JIANG XUEQING in Tokyo | China Daily Global | Updated: 2024-04-24 09:28

An aerial view shows Japan's Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF)'s multi-purpose destroyer Izumo (DDH-183) leading the fleet during the International Fleet Review to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the foundation of the JMSDF, at Sagami Bay, off Yokosuka, south of Tokyo, Japan, on Nov 6, 2022. [Photo/Agencies]

Japanese scholars and former officials are calling for effective communication between security experts from Japan and China and close exchanges between the governments of the two countries to enhance mutual trust, resolve issues through dialogue, and prevent unforeseen circumstances.

The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force, or JMSDF, recently said it will dispatch a special security unit to the so-called "Indo-Pacific" region in May or later to help the coast guards of those countries enhance their inspections of suspicious ships. Details regarding the destination of the unit and duration of the mission have not been disclosed.

This will mark the first time a special unit of SDF provides support for foreign agencies.

Ryo Sakai, chief of staff of the JMSDF, emphasized that "while the special security unit possesses a wide range of capabilities, it will provide basic capacity-building support in the coming mission so the dispatch will not cause any concerns or doubts among other countries", said Kazuyuki Hamada, an international political economy scholar.

"However, the current situation lacks sufficient explanation. Sakai also explained that there are no military objectives targeting specific countries, but it is undeniable that this deployment is part of defense cooperation with the United States," Hamada said.

He noted that the Japanese people bear the burden of history in which they once engaged in armed conflicts with neighboring countries in Asia, resulting in significant damage.

Problematic aspects

"Considering lessons from the past, Japan should calmly analyze the problematic aspects of the United States' expansionist economic and military policies and aim to pioneer initiatives based on the concept of a community with a shared future for mankind," Hamada added.

Ukeru Magosaki, a former senior official with Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said Japan is currently carrying out joint military actions with the US and countries allied with the US.

These are beyond Japan's borders and those of its neighbors, he said, adding that they are taking place in the context of the US positioning China as its greatest competitor and seeking to cooperate with countries surrounding China to establish a cooperative framework.

"There used to be a cautious era in the Japanese government regarding such moves, but now it seems that there is hardly any framework for such restrictions," Magosaki said.

He added: "In regard to Japan's relationship with China, I believe it is necessary to examine each specific issue that may arise, consider what agreements exist, and assess the potential for resolution through dialogue. Many of these issues are either already resolved or have a high potential for resolution through non-military means."

It is important to explain to the public and ensure they understand that there is no need to resort to military means, Magosaki said.

On Monday, more than 180 navy representatives from 29 countries gathered for the 19th biennial meeting of the Western Pacific Naval Symposium, which opened in Qingdao, a port city in East China's Shandong province.

Risk avoidance measures for accidental conflicts were discussed at the meeting, Hamada said. He said he hopes such opportunities will contribute to enhancing mutual trust.

"With effective communication between security experts from Japan and China, it should be entirely possible to prevent unforeseen circumstances," Hamada said.

"Therefore, political-level communication channels and close exchanges between governments are indispensable."

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