Japan’s White Paper focuses on China and North Korea along with the coronavirus

The coronavirus pandemic made the list of primary security concerns for Japan this year, alongside familiar names like China, Russia and North Korea, according to a Ministry of Defense white paper released Tuesday.

By CAITLIN DOORNBOS
SOURCE: STARS AND STRIPES

The ministry releases a report on its guiding philosophies, goals and challenges each summer. This year’s document outlines security trends similar to those highlighted in 2019, including China’s “relentless” militarization and coercion in the South China Sea and North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. “Such military trends in North Korea pose grave and imminent threats to Japan’s security,” the document said.

The defense ministry paper advises the government to “keep an eye on” the coronavirus’ spread as it brings “diverse impacts and restrictions to military activities of respective countries.”

The virus reached global pandemic status in March and temporarily sidelined a U.S. aircraft carrier, but it has not crippled military activity by Japan’s chief ally or its competitors, according to the white paper.

In Russia, “even amid the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic within the forces, military activities have remained active,” the report said. COVID-19 is the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus.

The Japan Self-Defense Forces contributed significant efforts against the coronavirus, the white paper states. About 2,700 JSDF personnel worked aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship that in February quarantined its 3,700 passengers and crew in Yokohama Bay.

The ministry document warned that China may be using the pandemic to its advantage, creating propaganda and sending medical professionals and equipment to other nations to gain favor and attack U.S. credibility.

China is spreading disinformation about the virus on social media, saying U.S. armed forces introduced it to China and that Chinese herbal medicine is having a therapeutic effect against COVID-19, according to the ministry.

Territorial disputes
Beijing remains one of Tokyo’s primary security concerns, according to the document. Last year, a record 1,097 Chinese vessels were spotted in Japan’s contiguous zone, the 12-mile-wide belt between a nation’s territorial waters and international waters. In 2018, 607 Chinese vessels were spotted in Japan’s contiguous zone. READ MORE HERE