Japan plans big increase in defense spending to counter growing threat from China

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Japan will upgrade its cruise missiles and seek out hypersonic weapons as it seeks to dramatically increase military spending to counter what Tokyo sees as the growing threat from China.

The Ministry of Defense on Wednesday made a record budget request of 5.6 billion yen ($40 billion) for the year to March 2024, against 5.4 billion yen in planned spending for the fiscal year in Classes.

But people familiar with internal ministerial discussions said the final budget would top at least 6 billion yen after including additional requests for military equipment to be made by the end of 2022, when Japan releases a new national security strategy and plans. defense guidelines. This would make the figure one of the largest increases in military spending in the country in the post-war period.

Tokyo has steadily increased its defense budget over the past decade, but spending has remained equivalent to around 1% of gross domestic product, which is low by global standards.

That’s about to change under Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who has pledged to “significantly” improve defense capabilities after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine sparked fears that China could do a similar move against Taiwan.

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party has called on Japan to match NATO’s target for member states to spend 2% of GDP on defence, but the government has not set a specific target.

People familiar with budget talks said Japan was considering developing local cruise missiles that would have a range of over 1,000 km. This would allow Japan to strike targets in North Korea or China from ships and fighter jets.

Long-range surface-to-ship missiles are expected to form the backbone of first-strike capabilities against enemy bases that Japan, which has traditionally engaged in a purely defensive military posture, is considering as part of national security strategy.

These deliberations are likely to intensify after China conducted an unprecedented series of military exercises in response to a visit to Taiwan by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Tokyo has slammed Beijing for firing ballistic missiles into Japan’s exclusive economic zone for the first time as part of drills this month.

The cruise missile capability upgrade is expected to be part of a long list of additional items the Department of Defense plans to put on price tags by the end of 2022.

The budget request included spending on exercises to be conducted around the waters of the southernmost tip of the Ryukyu island chain – which Tokyo calls the Nansei Islands – where China has recently increased its naval presence. It also included spending on unmanned aerial vehicles as well as cybersecurity and space capabilities.

Keitaro Ohno, a PLD parliamentarian formerly in charge of economic security issues, said the debate on Japan’s capacity building should not focus only on missiles and other weapons, but also on research and development, growth of national defense enterprises and other basic needs such as ammunition.

“Instead of just increasing combat equipment, we need to focus on building a robust structure for the defense industry,” Ohno said.

How far the Kishida administration can actually increase military spending remains unclear. The prime minister will need the backing of the LDP’s coalition partner Komeito, which draws its backing from Buddhist voters, to expand the budget and add first-strike capabilities.

These talks are expected to begin in October.

“The Komeito can make difficult requests and there is the risk that additional individual requests for expenditure will not be approved,” said a PLD parliamentarian.

Some people within the PLD have called on the government to use this year’s defense budget to send a strong security message. But others wondered how Japan would fund big spending, as it also grapples with an aging population and rising social security spending.

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