Intelasia East Asia News – Japan Boosts Defense Spending to Record High Amid Growing China Threat

With hypersonic weapons, long-range cruise missiles and a record military budget that will shatter a historic spending cap after decades of silence, Japan’s self-defense forces are actively preparing for the possibility of war.

Though still constrained by the constitution, a legacy of the nation’s defeat in World War II, investment in Japan’s military has been quietly increasing since 2015, but has always remained at an unofficial limit of 1% of GDP.

US and Japanese soldiers train together in June (Anadolu Agency/Anadolu Agency)

US and Japanese soldiers train together in June (Anadolu Agency/Anadolu Agency)

No more. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and China’s unprecedented military exercises around Taiwan have created a growing sense in Tokyo that a major conflict on its doorstep could happen at any moment and that Japan must be ready. .

“China is trying to change the status quo in the region by force, and it is now coordinating with the Russian military,” said Fumio Ohta, a retired admiral in Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Forces and former chief of the headquarters of the defense intelligence. The Telegraph. “Meanwhile, North Korea continues to launch ballistic missiles and is expected to conduct another nuclear test in the coming weeks.”

“Given the circumstances, it is entirely reasonable for Japan to respond to these challenges by increasing defense spending,” he added.

The Ministry of Defense this week requested a record 5.6 trillion yen (£34.5 billion) in next year’s budget, up from 5.45 trillion yen the previous year. This figure is expected to increase further to 6.5 trillion yen when a number of additional markets are included later this year, which would represent around 1.2% of GDP.

Among the equipment on the ministry’s wish list are locally developed cruise missiles with an extended range of more than 1,000 kilometers. They could reach China or North Korea from ship or fighter jet, a clear move towards improving first-strike capabilities that departs from Japan’s emphasis on defense.

Other requests include two new destroyers equipped with the Aegis anti-ballistic missile system, high-speed hovering ballistic missiles and hypersonic weapons.

“At the moment there is a significant imbalance in missile capabilities between Japan and China and even North Korea,” Admiral Ohta said. “China has more than 1,000 ballistic missiles with enough range to reach Japan and North Korea is estimated to have about the same number. Japan has no ballistic missiles.

“We need to develop ranged attack capability and hypersonic munitions to be able to defend ourselves.”

Since Japan’s defeat in 1945, successive governments have tried to limit defense spending, relying instead on a security agreement with the United States to guarantee the country’s security.

Article 9 of the constitution states that Japan renounces war as a sovereign right and declares that “the land, sea and air forces, as well as all other war potential, will never be maintained”, which results in what Japan called its “self-defense forces”. ”.

But the evolution of the geopolitical situation modifies the opinions in the country.

Despite historic taboos and belt-tightening of other government agencies as the economy struggles to shed the legacies of the pandemic and ongoing conflict in Ukraine, new Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is expected to approve the government’s spending request. Department of Defense.

In recent weeks, Kishida has pledged to “fundamentally strengthen” the nation’s defensive capabilities and has repeatedly stated that “the Ukraine of today could be East Asia of tomorrow.”

He described security in East Asia as “fragile” after Russia invaded Ukraine and promised to “substantially” increase spending to prepare Japan for regional conflict.

New guidelines adopted by the government in June call on Tokyo to double spending on its armed forces “within five years” and meet the NATO target of 2% of GDP within 10 years.

Five years is considered the time frame within which a conflict involving China and Taiwan is likely to occur.

“The year 2027 is important for [Chinese President] Xi Jinping because he is going to be re-elected later this year and his term will end in 2027, so he wants Taiwan’s reintegration into China to be his legacy,” Admiral Ohta said. “It’s only five years away and yes, I think that’s a fair assessment.”

Japan is not the only country in the Asia-Pacific region to fear that war is imminent, especially given Beijing’s increasingly aggressive stance on the disputed territory in the South China Sea.

South Korea is also increasing defense spending over the coming year and stepping up joint exercises with the United States, while India this week commissioned its first nationally-built aircraft carrier, the Vikrant.

The importance of such measures was underscored last month when Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, visited Taipei, unleashing an unprecedented show of military force from Beijing, simulating an invasion in large island scale.

Given Japan’s proximity to Taiwan, Yonaguni’s Okinawa Island less than 70 miles away, and its large US military contingent, it is highly likely that China would attempt to neutralize the threat on its northern flank.

Japan got a taste of what it could look like during Chinese drills when five ballistic missiles landed in its exclusive economic zone, prompting a furious response from Tokyo.

The drills are a “serious matter that impacts our national security and the safety of our citizens,” Kishida said at the time.

Key words: Featured

Category: China, Japan

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