China is pushing harder to make territorial claims in the regional seas and even using the coronavirus pandemic to expand its influence and take strategic superiority, posing a greater threat to Japan and the region, Japan’s government said.
The report highlighting the government’s defense priorities was adopted by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Cabinet on Tuesday, less than a day after the Trump administration rejected outright nearly all of Beijing’s significant maritime claims in the South China Sea in a statement likely to deepen the U.S.-China rift.
The Abe government’s Defense White Paper 2020 highlights what are potential Chinese and North Korean threats as Japan tries to further increase its defense capability.
Under Abe, Japan has steadily increased its defense budget and capability and purchased costly American arsenals.
Defense Minister Taro Kono recently scrapped the deployment of a pair of costly U.S. land-based missile intercepting systems due to technical issues, and Abe quickly announced his intention to revise Japan’s defense guidelines, possibly allowing Japan to go beyond its conventional defense-only role under the Japan-US security alliance, including discussing a possibility of acquiring a preemptive strike capability.
The White Paper accused China of using propaganda, including spreading disinformation, about the spread of the coronavirus.
“The COVID-19 pandemic may expose and intensify strategic competition among countries intending to create international and regional orders more preferable to themselves and to expand their influence,” the report said.
“We need to closely watch their move with serious concern affecting the national security.”
As evidence, a Japanese Defense Ministry official noted a Chinese Foreign Ministry official had posted on Twitter in March accusing US military of spreading the coronavirus in Wuhan and that Chinese media has touted herbal medicine as effective COVID-19 treatments.