Japan unveiled a new national security plan on Friday, marking the country’s largest military buildup since World War II, doubling defense spending and changing its pacifist constitution in the face of growing threats from regional rivals.
In a televised address early in Tokyo, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said the government had approved three security documents – the National Security Strategy (NSS), the National Defense Strategy and the Defense Forces Development Plan – to strengthen Japan’s defense capabilities. An increasingly unstable security environment.
Kishida said the new measures included provisions giving Japan a “counterattack capability,” the ability to directly attack another country’s territory in emergencies and under specific circumstances.
Japan’s defense minister, Koichi Hamada, said the Japanese prime minister had instructed his defense and finance ministers in early December to seek funding to increase Japan’s defense budget to 2 percent of current GDP in 2027.
In the new defense move, Japan is changing its interpretation of its post-World War II constitution, which imposed restrictions on its self-defense forces because they can only be used for the purpose of defending Japan’s homeland that their name implies.
But Tokyo is facing the worst security situation in decades.
Japan has described one of its rivals – China – as its “biggest strategic challenge” as it overhauls its defense, public broadcaster NHK reported Friday.
Longtime rival China has been developing its navy and air force near Japan, while claiming the uninhabited Japanese-controlled Senkaku Islands in the Sea of Japan, also known as the East Sea, as its sovereign territory.
Chinese ships routinely sail near the islands, which Japan calls the Diaoyu Islands, and Japan scrambles warplanes almost daily in response to Chinese aircraft approaching its airspace.
At the same time, China has been ramping up military pressure on Taiwan, whose security Japanese leaders say is critical to Japan’s own. In October, Beijing responded to a visit by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taipei by launching five missiles that landed in Japan’s exclusive economic zone near Taiwan.
From the West, Japan has been paying attention to the construction of North Korea’s missile arsenal. Pyongyang has conducted 34 missile tests this year, including one over Japan in October, its first in five years, an act Kishida called “outrageous”.
In northern Japan, Russia’s buildup on the island since the start of the Ukraine war and belligerent rhetoric from Moscow have only added to Tokyo’s concern that it may need to defend its territory against multiple threats simultaneously.
While Japan is considered to have one of the most modern and powerful militaries in the world, its weapons are designed to strike enemies near its islands. But public broadcaster NHK said earlier this week that the new defense strategy would provide Tokyo with weapons such as U.S.-made Tomahawk missiles that can strike bases where possible enemies such as China, North Korea or Russia could attack Japanese territory.
Japan’s current missile defense system can only engage incoming targets when it comes within about 31 miles (50 kilometers), according to Self-Defense Force officials. But China, for example, has missiles that can be launched from various warplanes at distances of up to 186 miles (300 kilometers).
Tokyo says any new long-range weapons it may acquire will not be “preemptive strike” weapons, but will only be used if the enemy strikes Japan first.
Tokyo’s new defense strategy has been praised by its top ally, the United States, which has a mutual defense treaty with Japan and pledged to defend Japanese territory from attack. The U.S. also operates several large military installations in Japan, including Yokosuka Naval Base, home to the U.S. Navy’s Seventh Fleet.
U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a statement: “We welcome Japan’s release of an updated strategy document…which reflects Japan’s strong commitment to maintaining a rules-based international order and a free and open Indo-Pacific.”
“We support Japan’s decision to acquire new capabilities that strengthen regional deterrence, including counterattack capabilities,” Austin said.
Experts say Japanese troops are crucial to any potential U.S. military action against China should hostilities break out.
“The capabilities of the Japanese military are unbelievable. … In times of large-scale conflict in East Asia, including a possible conflict in the Taiwan Strait, Japan will play a very important and capable role,” Ankit Panda said. Stanton is a Senior Fellow in the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
“At a time of conflict in East Asia, Japan will be a very important partner, especially for the United States.”
Given the scope of Japan’s defense policy changes, the country’s main opposition party said on Friday that Kishida had not done enough to discuss the changes with them.
“No information was given, no explanation was given, and no discussion was held with the public or Diet, even though we are deciding on things that will significantly change Japan’s postwar security policy,” Japan Secretary of State Kenta Izumi, chairman of the Constitutional Democratic Party, told a news conference.
sparked an arms race in asia
But Panda and others warn that an unchecked arms race in Asia is fueling regional instability.
“I think this will continue to reinforce the threat perception in Pyongyang and Beijing. We will continue to see these dynamics spiraling in East Asia. We have no restraint. We have no arms control,” Panda said.
As reports of Japan’s defense buildup have surfaced over the past few months, China has warned Tokyo of the possible consequences of increasing its military might.
At a regular press conference in early December, China’s foreign ministry accused Japan of “hyping up regional tensions to seek a military breakthrough” and said Japan needed to “seriously reflect on its history of aggression, respect the security concerns of its Asian neighbors, and act prudently.” In the field of military security, do more things that are conducive to regional peace and stability. “
An editorial in China’s state-run tabloid Global Times on Wednesday slammed the new security policy even before it was announced.
“The signal it sends is undoubtedly very dangerous,” it said.
“Using this to guide the national security strategy will definitely lead Japan into a dangerous savage drift, eventually forming a huge dark vortex. We advise Japan to relax,” the Global Times said.
Tensions between China and Japan center on Taiwan. The two sides have been administered separately for more than 70 years, but that hasn’t stopped China’s ruling Communist Party from claiming the island for itself – though never controlling it.
In December last year, the late former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe declared that “Taiwan’s emergency is Japan’s emergency, and therefore the Japan-US alliance’s emergency”, calling on Chinese leader Xi Jinping to “never misjudge” this – – A A statement that reverberated throughout East Asia.
But it wasn’t until August when China launched military exercises around Taiwan and launched those missiles into Japan’s exclusive economic zone that Tokyo really sat up and took notice of Beijing’s designs on the island, analysts said.
“This is a wake-up call,” said Guo Yuren, a professor at Taiwan’s National Sun Yat-sen University who specializes in Japanese defense policy. “It raises their concerns and concerns about the relationship between Taiwan’s security and Japan’s own security.”
Given Taiwan’s strategic location on the first island chain — a string of U.S.-friendly territories critical to U.S. foreign policy — and an important global shipping route, if the island fell under Beijing’s control, it could It would jeopardize Japan’s economic lifeline and allow the Chinese navy unrestricted access to the Western Pacific.
Yasuhiro Matsuda, a professor of international politics at the University of Tokyo and a former senior fellow at the Ministry of Defense, said: “Japan’s position is clear and firm – Taiwan is the foundation of its own security; it is not just a pressure point in the bilateral relationship with China”, told CNN.