TOKYO, Aug. 5 (Xinhua) -- Japan's Defense Ministry in its annual white paper on Tuesday claimed that the nation is facing a worsening security environment as neighboring countries increase military activity in the region and Japan should bolster its own security role to counter threats.
The defense ministry's 506-page white paper made numerous references to the "intensifying severity of the security environment surrounding Japan" and said Japan's reinterpretation of its decades-held pacifist constitution to enable its forces to engage in collective self-defense was a security shift of " historic significance."
"Opaque and uncertain factors such as issues of territorial rights and reunification remain in the vicinity of Japan. There is also an increase in the number of so-called 'gray-zone' situations, that is, neither purely peacetime nor contingencies, over territory, sovereignty and maritime economic interests, etc.," the paper said.
"In addition, there are clearer trends for neighboring states to modernize and reinforce their military capabilities and to intensify their military activities. As such, security issues and destabilizing factors in the Asia-Pacific region including the area surrounding Japan are becoming more serious," the defense ministry said in the annual paper.
In July the Cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe changed the interpretation of the nation's Constitution to allow Japanese forces to exercise the right to collective self-defense. The decision was made by Abe and his Cabinet alone and didn't involve a public referendum and support of both houses of parliament as constitutional change requires.
Despite falling approval rates and protests around the country against Abe recasting Japan's military, the white paper downplayed Abe's plans to bolster the military saying the moves were supposed to be a "deterrent."
While Japan in recent days has been pressing to hold summit- level meetings with China, the white paper had a number of " significant additions" in the 20-pages it dedicated to China.
The extended focus on China is purportedly based on what the ministry describes as "the various new developments in the past year."
Specifically, the ministry is referring to developments in China including its establishment of an air defence identification zone (ADIZ) in the East China Sea over islands at the heart of a territorial dispute between Japan and China, that, along with historical issues, has caused diplomatic ties between the two countries to become all but severed.
But while analysts here said the contents of the white paper were not overly unexpected, they said Japan had definitely upped its rhetoric against China, not just domestically, but on the international stage as well, in a bid to pave the way for an expanded global military presence.
"The defense ministry has used every opportunity in this document to justify Abe's military buildup by blaming Japan's neighbors for increased military activity in the region," political commentator and author Philip McNeil told Xinhua.
"Moreover, and perhaps this year more than most, the white paper has blatantly implied that China is responsible for the intensifying severity of the security environment in the region and Tokyo can expect a harsh backlash from Beijing for this."
"I think there's a lot of fear-mongering going on here and Abe is attempting to pass on this fear from Japan to other nations to support his plans to expand Japan's military role in the world. Military expansion is the aim and China is just the excuse, unfortunately," McNeil said.