The Japanese Ministry of Defense released its annual defense “white paper” Tuesday, outlining what Japan believes are its most serious military and security challenges, as well as a range of cooperation activities with allies such as the US. In the document, Japan says China has taken “assertive actions” to change the regional status quo by “coercion.” It charges China with frequent violations of Japanese airspace by ships and aircraft and engaging in “dangerous activities that could cause unintended consequences,” such as the flight of fighters “abnormally close” to Japan Air Self Defense Force aircraft. The creation of an Air Defense Identification Zone surrounding the Senkaku Islands in November 2013 by China was a “profoundly dangerous” act, the Japanese charge. The paper also highlights a range of threats and trends the Japanese say are creating an “increasingly severe” security environment. These activities include North Korea’s unapologetic increase in testing and launches of its long-range artillery and ballistic missiles, as well as an increase in Russian military activity around Japan since this past spring, which PACAF officials have previously noted. Russia has increased “exercises and drills that are believed to have objectives such as verification of the results of military reform,” the Japanese declare.
The Air Force overall reduced its size by 120 aircraft in fiscal year 2021, but kept about the same number of fighter, bomber and attack aircraft, according to data supplied by the service. The F-35 fleet saw the biggest increase while the B-1B bomber fleet saw the largest decline.