Japan will double its defense budget

(Tokyo) On Friday, Japan will unveil the biggest overhaul of its defense doctrine in nearly a decade, planning to boost military spending, strengthen its command and increase the range of its missiles against China.

This is a big change for a country whose pacifist Constitution, adopted the day after its defeat at the end of World War II, forbids it in principle from equipping itself with a real army.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida reiterated last weekend: “Strongly strengthening our defense capabilities is the most pressing challenge in this challenging security environment.”

This change is primarily a result of the growing fear that China’s military power and ambitions in the Asia-Pacific inspire in Tokyo.

Repeated missile attacks by North Korea and Russia’s intervention in Ukraine also play a role, as does the feeling that Washington’s protection provided by the Japan-US Security Treaty is no longer sufficient on its own.

“Counter Attack Skill”

At the heart of its new “national security strategy,” Japan plans to increase its annual defense budget from about 1% to 2% of GDP by 2027. Thus, the country will comply with a similar commitment already taken by NATO member countries.

Japan is particularly intent on acquiring a “counter-offensive capability,” a concept that until recently did not immediately fit into its Constitution. This would allow it to strike targets from neighboring countries that threaten the archipelago, even pre-emptively.

According to local media, Tokyo should, however, emphasize its commitment to a strategy based on “self-defense” in accordance with the Constitution and its desire not to become a “military power”.

In particular, Japan wants to acquire up to 500 American Tomahawk cruise missiles, increasing the capabilities of its current arsenal.

The country also announced on Friday its intention to develop an upcoming fighter jet with the UK and Italy. It also plans to build a hundred ammunition depots and launch satellites to better target potential future retaliatory strikes, according to local media.

The Japanese military high command should also be consolidated within five years by combining the respective directions of the three branches of the self-defense forces.

The presence of the Self-Defense Forces on Japan’s southernmost islands, closest to Taiwan and therefore to China, should also be increased, notably by nearly tripling the number of anti-ballistic missile units, according to Japanese media.

“Normalization” rather than militarism

The new national defense strategy should clearly refer to China.

The Liberal Democratic Party (PLD, nationalist right) led by Fumio Kishida would like to use the term China “threat”, but official documents due on Friday should see Beijing as a “source of serious concern”. The Komeito party, a centre-right ally of the PLD.

However, it would represent a clear hardening of tone compared to the first publication of Japan’s national security strategy in 2013, when Tokyo said it wanted to seek a “mutually beneficial strategic partnership” with Beijing. This statement should no longer exist.

Japan’s long-standing concerns about China escalated last August when Beijing stepped up military exercises near Taiwan and missiles were reported to have landed in waters inside the Japanese archipelago’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

The new Japanese strategy is likely to anger Beijing, which alludes to the brutal Japanese militarism of the first half of the 20th century.e One of the victims of the century was China.

But for its architects in Tokyo, the revised doctrine is “the last step in the slow and gradual normalization of Japan’s defense and national security posture,” according to James Brady, vice president of Teneo Research.

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