The National Institute for Defense Studies, the Japanese Ministry of Defense’s think tank, produced its annual report, the East Asian Strategic Review, for 2015 on April 10. A key theme throughout the analysis (which covers the 2014 calendar year) was the Chinese People’s Liberation Army’s national defense reform and increasing range of exercises.
For example, China and Russia have increased the number of joint military drills in a way that is sparking concern in Tokyo. One such joint exercise involved aircraft identification and air defense, with consideration given to how a crisis situation involving the Chinese Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) over the East China Sea might play out.
Japanese concerns about Chinese behavior in the East China Sea is not just based on conjectures about China’s opaque intentions – there are tangible and direct Chinese actions that Japan finds alarming. On April 15, the Ministry of Defense reported that Japanese Air Self-Defense Force (ASDF) fighters were scrambled 943 times, close to a record, in fiscal year 2014 (April 2014 to March 2015). That’s 133 more times than FY2013, and only second to FY1984 during the Cold War, when ASDF fighters scrambled 944 times.