11TH TOKYO-BEIJING FORUMJapanese, Chinese Specialists Exchange Candid Opinions on Defense Policies

October 30, 2015

⇒ Read Plenary Session report "Sharing ultimate goal to ensure peace and stability in Northeast Asia"
⇒ Read Economy Breakout Session report "Economists and business leaders agree on need to re-energize bilateral economic relations"

More than a dozen leading security specialists from Japan and China exchanged detailed analysis on the security and defense policies of their governments for better mutual understanding and in search of joint efforts for peace-building at one of the concurrent working sessions of the 11th Tokyo- Beijing Forum, a civic event held in Beijing on Oct 24 and 25 jointly by The Genron NPO in Tokyo and China International Publishing Group in Beijing.

The working session was titled "New Development of Japan-China Security Policies and Peace-Building in East Asia: Mutual Understanding of Security Ideas of the Two Countries and Cooperation for Peaceful Order."

Yuji Miyamoto, former Japanese ambassador to China, and Chen Xiaogong, a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the National People's Congress, acted as co-chairpersons.

The Japanese panelists were: Osamu Onoda, former commander of Air Training Command of Japan Air Self-Defense Force; Yoji Koda, former commander in chief, Self Defense Fleet, Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force; Kazuhiko Togo, a professor at Kyoto Sangyo University; Noboru Yamaguchi, a professor at International University of Japan; Hideshi Tokuchi, former vice minister of defense for international affairs at the Ministry of Defense, ; and Ken Jimbo, an associate professor in the Faculty of Policy Management, Keio University.

Their Chinese counterparts were: Zhu Chenghu, a professor at the College of Defense Studies of the National Defense University; Yao Yunzhu, director of the Center on China-American Defense Relations at the Academy of Military Sciences of the Chinese People's Liberation Army; Yang Yi, deputy chairman of the Northeast Asia Development Institute; Li Wei, director of the Institute of Japanese Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences; Zhang Tuosheng, director of the China Foundation for International and Strategic Studies; Huang Renwei, vice president of Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences; Wu Huaizhong, researcher at the Institute of Japanese Studies of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS); and Wu Jilu, Chief of Marine Law, Rights and Interests Research Office at the Institute for Ocean Development Strategy, the State Oceanic Administration.

Changing Military strategies and concept of security of China

The discussion started with Yao Yunzhu of the Academy of Military Sciences of the Chinese People's Liberation Army, who noted China's "significant endeavors" in a wide range of security-related areas during the past two years. They included establishment of the State Security Committee, headed by President Xi Jinping of China.

Explaining the 2015 National Defense Paper, she pointed out that the international circumstances are generally "turning favorable" for China. She said that her country is now facing strategic "chances," but it is also exposed to "challenges," such as America's rebalancing policy for Asia and changes in Japanese security policies. She also indicated that China's "tough decisions" were made in accordance with the new Strategic Code of National Security, which, however, was not made public.

China "emphasizes that it will take whatever action" to protect its expanding national interests as the country grows in various areas inside and outside the nation, she said. And now the interests not only include territorial land, sea and air but also "the new territorial realms" such as "cyberspace," "space" and "nuclear power."

In the same vein, China has grown out of the conventional concept of defense, she added. The navy would not only defend the sea close to the mainland, but it simultaneously provides security in distant oceans, she said. Its air force extended its defense efforts beyond its territorial air now into space, too.

She explained how China has changed its perception of national security. China, for example, will "cope actively with untraditional security areas, now that security covers a wider range" and "diversify the means to ensure national security by increasing political, economic, diplomatic and cultural influences," she said. China is also interested in "improving its national security by participating and contributing to the global security system."

Zhang Tuosheng, director of the China Foundation for International and Strategic Studies, meanwhile, stated that China remains unchanged in its policy of not seeking hegemony no matter how much it develops as a nation. It would not "join any arms race," either. China now "regards it important to have a risk-management mechanism and prevent estrangement with Japan," he said. China is also seeking "not only territorial security or maritime interests but also regional stability," he added.

Japan's new security laws and defense strategies

Hideshi Tokuchi, meanwhile, pointed out Japan's "very strong determination to defend its territorial land, sea and airspace." Having served as the defense vice minister of Japan until early October this year, he explained that it is no longer possible for any one country to ensure peace by itself amid the fast-paced globalization Japan's "proactive pacifism" policy is based on this understanding, he noted.

China has been quick to speak out on Japan's new security laws. Tokuchi explained that Japan had only updated the risk-management system to fit international peacekeeping activities in the new circumstances brought about by "cross-border crises such as terrorism," "changing power balance," etc. Japan's new collective self-defense policy would improve deterrence and reduce the risk of armed conflict, he added. "It would be beneficial to China," he said.

Professor Kazuhiko Togo further looked at the background of the new security laws and pointed to the longtime "asymmetric nature of the Japan-U.S. alliance" since 1960. Namely, the United States was obliged to protect Japan, but it was not the other way around. The new collective self-defense scheme would equalize the two partners and lead Japan to greater independence from the U.S. in the long run, he said.

Chinese commentators expressed their serious concerns, however, and continued to ask more questions on these points.

Zhang Tuosheng of the China Foundation for International and Strategic Studies asked if Japan's new security system would be truly beneficial to China. It will "strengthen regional stability," answered Tokuchi. The new stability will provide China with greater sea lane security. Japan's expansion of its peacekeeping activities would be also in China's interests, for example, he added.

Collective self-defense policy and its constitutionality

Li Wei, China's Japan specialist, asked about the constitutionality of Japan's new collective self-defense policy in view of the Japanese war-renouncing Constitution. Many Japanese Constitution specialists and scholars have indeed opposed the government's new constitutional interpretation for allowing collective self-defense.

Tokuchi and Yuji Miyamoto responded that only the Supreme Court could rule on its constitutionality, not the scholars. Japan's Supreme Court has approved the country's right to defend itself and the postwar administrations have agreed Japan's defense actions would remain at a "minimum" scale, said Tokuchi.

Wu Huaizhong, another Japan specialist from China, meanwhile, asked if Japan would ever attempt to revise the war-renouncing Constitution to legitimize the new collective self-defense policy. Active debates continue about it in Japan, but a constitutional revision is not "realistic" in Japan today, said professor Togo. "The new interpretation was a big step forward and the constitutional revision, if necessary, will not take place for some time," he explained.

Mr. Miyamoto pointed out that the revision would not mean abandoning pacifism. The pro-revision people call mostly for changing Section 2 (prohibiting maintaining military forces) of Article 9, but not (war-renouncing) Section 1 of it, he noted.

As per the area of possible collective self-defense involvement, Tokuchi reassured the session that the actions would be limited only to "those countries closely linked" in security interests. Yet, such actions would not be taken easily. The Cabinet will have to make decisions carefully and they will also require formal approval of the Diet (parliament), he reminded the participants.

China in the picture of Japan's proactive pacifism

"Then, how does the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe view China in its picture of the "proactive pacifism" policy?" asked Wu Huaizhong, researcher at the Institute of Japanese Studies, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS). He conceded that Japan's new policy appears to aim at confronting China jointly with the U.S., Australia and India.

Professor Noboru Yamaguchi said the Japanese government had reconfirmed its intention to maintain the "Mutually Beneficial Relationship Based on Common Strategic Interests" with China, when it announced proactive pacifism as its principle diplomatic policy in 2013. Japan also maintained its policy of promoting cooperative relations with China for peace and stability. The two countries in fact worked together in South Sudan, the Gulf of Aden and many other places, added Tokuchi.


Regarding the controversial landfill islands China is actively building in the South China Sea, Osamu Onoda remarked that China appears to be pushing for whatever it wants now that it has become a major power. Then, Yao Yunzhu, a major general in the Chinese People's Liberation Army, insisted that Vietnam had started it all and China was only taking minimum countermeasures.

In the second half of the dialogue session, two keynote speakers from each country focused on the future prospects for cooperation between the two countries.

"Crisis management" and "mutual cooperation"

Associate professor Ken Jimbo of Keio University, Japan, emphasized the importance of confidence-building, noting greater transparency and more active exchanges are essential. He asked China to offer greater transparency and to increase mutual exchanges like China-U.S. military exchanges that happened in more than 60 areas alone during 2014.

He also claimed that if only a crisis-control mechanism and mutual-cooperation mechanism are built in mutual security arrangements, the two countries would not face serious problems even amid political or diplomatic setbacks.

The tensions between Japan and China have calmed down lately, compared to 2013 when China locked weapons-guiding radar onto Japanese naval vessels and May 2014 when fighter planes of the two countries came dangerously close to a collision, according to him. It remains an extremely important task for Japan and China to have the same perceptions of what constitutes a dangerous situation, establish common behavior codes, and set up hot lines on military and political channels, he stressed.

Jimbo then proposed promoting cooperation in "non-traditional security areas," such as disaster response in Asia. The two countries can possibly cooperate in maritime security in the South China Sea, he said.

Dialogue mechanism needed for clearing up misunderstanding and perception gaps

Responding to his remarks, professor Zhu Chenghu, a major general himself, further gave an account of the slow pace of such bilateral developments. He pointed at the lack of confidence, and also at various forms of misunderstanding and differences in perception. Many Chinese believe without solid evidence that Japan promotes militarism, while many Japanese think China targets Japan with its military expansion, as shown in the recent opinion poll by The Genron NPO and China International Publishing Group. He also placed the perception gaps regarding transparency of China's military or air defense identification zone as important issues on agenda.

To solve such misunderstandings and perception gaps, China and Japan need a dialogue mechanism, he also said. In the dialogue process, they can start with a simple agenda and move on gradually to a more complicated agenda, or similarly from multilateral issues to bilateral issues, from urgent issues to less urgent issues and from crisis management to cooperation. "Mutual cooperation will gradually become possible by building bilateral workshops where we can prioritize cooperative action in the security area," he said.

Yao Yunzhu said that dialogue between Chinese and Japanese defense authorities was unlikely in view of their completely opposing views about bilateral security interests and also because of public sentiments. But "if China and the U.S. can do it together, China and Japan may be able to," she noted.

Osamu Onoda was similarly skeptic about bilateral security cooperation. He, however, pointed out that the two nations had worked well together in the search efforts for a missing Malaysian airplane. "We have the potential for increasing cooperation and it is important to have regular exchanges to achieve it," he said.

Issues around the Senkaku Islands as viewed from Japan and China

Active discussions continued as Mr. Huang Renwei, vice president of Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences asked if Japan had China on its mind when shifting its defense focus southward to Nansei Island (Ryukyu Islands). Onoda responded that Japan is deploying defense capacity in that particular area simply because it had remained unattended in the past. Because Japan has a good number of isolated small islands, they need the defense forces there also to cope with civic calls in disasters and for emergency medical transports, Tokuchi said.

Asked about the recent Japan-U.S. joint training for island landing, Yoji Koda, former commander in chief of the Self Defense Fleet, Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force, admitted that Japan had been strictly prohibited from having such a landing capacity until 2000 because such training could lead to an invasion of foreign soil. But, "the Senkakus changed all that," he said. The issue of the uninhabited Senkaku Islands (called the Diaoyu Islands in China) has grown dramatically into a critical territorial dispute since 2012. "Japan had no know-how about landing tactics and therefore exercised the training jointly with the U.S. Marines who have such skills," he said. "But it is meant to serve only for 'recovery,' never to prepare for an attack," he emphasized.

Calling the Senkaku issue a "splinter stuck in Japan-China relations," professor Togo proposed "a return to the 1972-2012 status quo for the sake of sound, long-term development of bilateral Japan-China relations." Since it would take a very long time to settle the Senkaku issue, he said, Japan and China should, meanwhile, work together on "thoughts of Asia." The concept of "Asia by the Asians" proposed by President Xi Jinping in 2014 fits into this kind of endeavor, said Togo. Engaging in such profound thinking on a long-term basis will lead to the development of Japan-China relations, he added.

Summing up the dialogue session, Miyamoto called on all the panelists to follow up the discussion by creating many working groups and turn the ideas into specific actions.

⇒ Read Plenary Session report "Japanese, Chinese delegates share ultimate goal to ensure peace and stability in Northeast Asia"
⇒ Read Economy Breakout Session report "Japanese, Chinese economists, business leaders agree on need to re-energize bilateral economic relations"

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