Japanese Defense White Paper Reaffirms Strategic Priorities

Japanese Defense White Paper Reaffirms Strategic Priorities

On June 13, the Japanese government approved the latest edition of its annual defense white paper, "Defense of Japan 2007." The report identifies North Korea and China as Tokyo's primary strategic concerns while reaffirming Japan's alliance with the United States, commitment to international peacekeeping, and intent to keep defense spending slightly below 1 percent of its gross domestic product (some $39 billion).

This version of the white paper was the first published by Japan's new Ministry of Defense, which before January 2007 only had "agency" status. Compared with the previous Defense Agency, whose main function was to manage the Japanese Self-Defense Forces, the Defense Ministry has assumed a much greater role in national security planning and policy making. Defense of Japan 2007 justifies the new defense structure as needed to help Japanese policy makers better manage crises and support international peace activities rather than conduct more effective combat operations.

The Japanese white paper characterizes Pyongyang's improving missile arsenal as a major threat. The report assesses that the Democratic Peoples' Republic of Korea (DPRK) has extended the range of its missiles as well as improved their accuracy. Despite Japanese threats and pleas, the DPRK resumed test launching ballistic missiles over the Pacific Ocean in July 2006, ending a seven-year moratorium.

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