JSDF to have Missile Defence and two "aircraft carriers"
Tomohiko Taniguchi (Editor at Large, Nikkei Business Publications, Inc.)
Little known thus far is that Japan is no longer debating whether it is right or wrong to equip itself with ballistic missile defence (BMD) capability. Indeed it is about to become an indispensable link of the US-led system.
With the passage through the Diet of the government-proposed budget for the fiscal year of 2004 beginning in April, the Japanese Self Defence Forces (JSDF) will be granted 106.8 billion yen (953 MUSD), specifically earmarked to procure what would eventually constitute a fully-fledged BMD system.
Japan and US "Block 04"
As an initial step the JSDF will procure such systems as follows in the fiscal year:
Sea-Based Midcourse (SMD) element of the BMD capability, with a Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) system at its centre, to be added to one aegis-type guided missile destroyer (DDG), costing 34 billion yen;
The ground-based Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) missile-launch system that is part of the broader Terminal Defence Segment (TDS), 58.2 billion yen;
Upgrade of the Battle Management, Command, Control, and Communications (BMC3) network, plus continued collaboration with the US to develop relevant weapon systems, 14.6 billion yen.
The United States is taking what is called a spiral approach, in which components of the BMD system are developed and deployed in "blocks" with new capabilities fielded on a two-year cycle (starting in 2004). The first increment, called "Block 04", comprises exactly those systems deployments spelt out above.
Japan may be pursuing an independent plan of advancing its defence capability, but in so doing it is also implementing the Block 04 programme of the US per se. In a way, this could enhance the US-Japan security alliance even more than could the deployment of JSDF troops to Iraq, as a far fewer nations have taken real steps to be part of the US-led BMD system. Little wonder that US Ambassador Howard Baker praised Japan's decision in a speech he gave to Nanzan University on 1 March.
Earlier, on 19 December last year, it was announced that the Japanese government had decided "on the introduction of a Ballistic Missile Defence System and other measures" at the Cabinet Council and at the Security Council, a subsidiary council of the former. Nothing has been hidden. And yet throughout the Diet sessions that examined the budget proposed by the government, no opposition was ever voiced as to Japan's introducing a BMD system, thereby carrying out the first increment of the long-running programme of the United States.
Is this not strange? For one thing, China has long made it known that it would never tolerate Japan having BMD capability. One Chinese scholar has gone on to say that once Japan had it, "we should fight against it in exactly the same manner we did against the Japanese invaders during the war". Whether or not this is true, it is plausible that the "cold peace" already prevailing between Beijing and Tokyo will become even colder. Still an otherwise Beijing-friendly group of legislators in both ruling and opposition parties appeared quite uninterested in the issue.
The fact that Japan's BMD programme will be part of the US Block 04 has also been made public knowledge. One can learn about it by reading books such as that by Hideaki Kaneda(1).
The largest destroyer ship
The fiscal 2004 defence budget will also give the JSDF (the Japanese Maritime Defence Force, to be more precise) the largest destroyer Japan has ever had since the disappearance of its Imperial Navy.
Projected to be built this year is a 13,500-ton helicopter destroyer (DDH) code-named 16DDH (16 as in the Heisei year), with another planned from next year. The 16DDH in JSDF classification is by no means an aircraft carrier. Its characteristic shape, however, is nothing but.
It is almost as large as the Japanese Imperial Navy's Tone class heavy cruisers. It also matches in size such active aircraft carriers as Italy's MM Giuseppe Garibaldi (10,100 tons) and Spain's Principe de Asturia (17,188 tons).
Its modern aegis capacity with phased array radars, plus its advanced information link connecting both the Cabinet situation room and other weapon systems, also give it what the JSDF thinks will be the crucial node for the BMC3 network. This could be the flagship for the entire JMDF fleet.
JSDF maintains it carries only four helicopters, but in practice, it can carry as many as ten. Not only that, it is not entirely impossible for it to be refurbished to carry Vertical, Short Take-off and Landing (V/STOL) aircraft such as the UK's Harrier(2). It is little wonder the rest of Asia casts a suspicious eye toward the project.
Few Diet legislators have shown interest in discussing either one of these defence programmes, not to mention the ordinary Japanese citizens. Given the JSDF is clearly conducting a historic metamorphosis, it must become all the more accountable first to the nation and also to its allies and neighbours.
(1) Hideaki Kaneda, Dan'do Misairu Bouei Newmon (Introduction on BMD), Tokyo, Kaya Shobo, 2003
(2) See Sekai no Kan'sen (Ships of the World), January, 2004, pp. 136-141