What Happened: Japan has assessed China is now its most pressing security concern, according to the most recent edition of its annual Defense White Paper, released Sept. 27, the Associated Press reported. The Japanese-U.S. alliance comes first in the paper, indicating the importance of the countries' relationship to Japan's security, followed by mentions of China, whose Belt and Road infrastructure programs and rising naval presence in the Indian and Pacific oceans were cited as growing security concerns. North Korea previously had occupied the position of greatest Japanese concern.
Why It Matters: Japan has sought to develop a better working relationship with China, and has also tried to avoid being beholden to U.S. priorities in the Pacific. But its upgrade of China in the document nonetheless reflects the long-term security risks Beijing poses to the country, continuing a strategic trend that began at the end of the Cold War.
Background: China effectively replaced Russia as Japan's primary strategic long-term threat in the early 2000s, prompting Japan to shift its forces from Hokkaido in the north to the Ryukyu island chain in the southwest. Russia occupied the fourth position in this year's report, while the South Korea alliance was pushed down the document.