27 September 2019
by JON HERSKOVITZ
(Bloomberg) — Japan believes China could use its global “Belt and Road” infrastructure initiative to push its People’s Liberation Army into the Indian and Pacific Ocean regions, a move that could shake up regional security.
The “Defense of Japan” white paper released Friday said, “China engages in unilateral, coercive attempts to alter the status quo based on its own assertions that are incompatible with the existing international order.” Tokyo also stood firmly behind its sole military ally, the U.S.
Japan’s worries about one of the signature projects of Chinese President Xi Jinping come as other major powers, including the U.S., have raised concerns that Belt and Road port construction in places such as Djibouti and Cambodia could have a dual military use.
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“It is possible that the construction of infrastructure based on the initiative will further promote the activities of the PLA in the Indian Ocean, Pacific Ocean and elsewhere,” the paper said. Japan and China, the two largest economies in Asia, have long been rivals in terms of economic and strategic influence.
Since 2013 more than 130 countries have signed deals or expressed interest in Belt and Road projects geared to spurring trade along routes reminiscent of the ancient Silk Road. The World Bank estimates some $575 billion worth of railways, roads, ports and other projects have been or are in the process of being built. Critics contend projects can be debt traps that leave host countries with white elephant infrastructure and bills they can’t repay.
Other points raised in the military paper are:
Japan sees a regular projection of force by China’s navy and air force around islands claimed by both countries known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in ChinaIt says North Korea possesses and deploys several hundred ballistic missiles capable of hitting all parts of Japan. Military assessments indicate North Korea has miniaturized nuclear weapons to fit ballistic missiles as warheads.Japan’s military expects North Korea to work to increase the firing range of its ballistic missiles and step up its ability for a surprise attack through advancement in mobile missile launchers and submarines.It sees Russia stepping up military activities in the Far East.South Korea’s decision to withdraw from an intelligence-sharing pact known as GSOMIA was “extremely regrettable,” the paper saidRead: Japan Approves Record Defense Budget Amid North Korea Tensions