Last week, Bloomberg reported that Japan is set to become one of the world’s biggest military spenders. Pushed by the U.S., the Japanese government is seeking “its biggest increase in defense outlays since the end of the war.” Pushed by the U.S. in 1947, Japan included a clause in it’s consitution, “Article 9,” that outlaws Japan’s participation in wars, formally renouncing the sovereign right of belligerency and prohibiting the maintenance of an armed forces with any kind of war potential. Starting in 2014, Japan has been chipping away at Article 9 and now claims the right to defend allies in case of war.
Yesterday it was widely reported in the media that “Japan will upgrade its cruise missiles and research hypersonic weapons as it seeks to significantly increase military spending to counter what Tokyo sees as the rising threat from China” (Financial Times). ABC News reported that the government has made an opaque budget request. Mari Yamaguchi: “Japan's Defense Ministry made a budget request for the coming year Wednesday without specifying the costs of missiles for preemptive strikes and dozens of other weapons as well as its development plans, as the government aims to drastically raise Japan's military capability… Prime Minister Fumio Kishida promised the military reinforcement to President Joe Biden during his visit to Japan in May as the two countries strengthen their security alliance amid China's increasing activity in the region. Japan has been also expanding its military cooperation with friendly nations in the Asia-Pacific region and Europe. Only a partial sum of 5.6 trillion yen ($40.4 billion) was disclosed for 2023, but the ministry's budget plan could rise to around 6.5 trillion yen ($47 billion), up 20% from this year, Japanese media said.”
Japan caps annual defense spending at around 1% of its GDP, but Kishida's governing party proposes doubling it in coming years, citing NATO's standard of 2% of GDP.
That means Japan’s annual defense spending would rise to about 10 trillion yen ($72 billion), becoming the world’s third-largest after the United States and China.
Ministry officials said aggression like Russia’s invasion of Ukraine could occur in the Indo-Pacific region, as Beijing strengthens its military cooperation with Moscow and escalates tension over Taiwan.
China fired five ballistic missiles into waters near Okinawa during Beijing’s major military drills near self-ruled Taiwan in early August, while North Korea’s missile and nuclear development continue provoking the international community, defense officials said.
While the public's support for a stronger military has grown amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine, critics say the opaque request that doesn't set a ceiling is a bad precedent. They also question if the increase is realistic and say that the government's plan lacks clarity over how it can fund the spending in a country with an aging and shrinking population.
The defense ministry's request focuses on seven key areas, including missile strike and defense systems, unmanned vehicles, space and cybersecurity defense.
Japan is upgrading missiles and considering using them for preemptive strikes— a move critics say would fundamentally change Japan's defense policy and breach the postwar pacifist constitution that limits use of force to self-defense.
The ministry requested an undisclosed amount to improve and mass produce an upgraded Type 12 surface-to-ship guided missile to extend its range for use in “standoff” strikes on enemy targets from destroyers and fighter jets.
…Japan has shifted its defense from the northeast to southwestern Japan as U.S.-China tension escalates over Taiwan, which Beijing claims as its own territory.
The ministry is seeking money also to develop and construct an offshore landing facility with a connecting jetty on remote islands without adequate ports for warships. It also aims to step up research and development of unmanned aircraft for reconnaissance and enemy strikes to make up for a smaller number of service members.
It also needs funding for a new destroyer with Aegis-radar missile defense system with an expanded capability to shoot down gliding vehicles that could fly five times the speed of sound.
Takahide Kiuchi, a Nomura Research Institute executive economist, said doubling defense spending would require 2% consumption tax hike and a significant cut of social welfare benefits.
Historically, China and Japan have fought over Korea— from 663 AD on. For the last couple of years, I’ve been watching a long history of pre-Ottoman Turkey, Turkish TV series Ertugrul and Osman a great deal of which includes the invasion by the Mongols in the 1300s. In my research around the show I wound up reading about Kublai Khan and the Yuan dynasty’s failed attempts to conquer Japan in the late 13th century. It featured the first military actions using gun powder outside of China.
After Japan was fully united, the idea of conquering China was hatched starting with the Ming dynasty in the late 1500s, which went so badly for Japan that isolationism became the country’s official foreign policy— until the U.S. (Admiral Perry) forced them to open up in the 1850s, which caused a rapid industrialization (and militarization) of the country. In 1895 Japan defeated China (first Sino-Japanese War) and was forced to cede Formosa, the Pescadores Islands and the Liaotung Peninsula to Japan. Japan kept interfering in China and during WWI seized the German colonies in China. In the 1930’s Japan seized Manchuria and established a puppet state, Manchukuo. The second Sino-Japanese started in 1937 and was once again basically Japanese aggression, including the rape of Nanking. Millions of Chinese civilians were killed.
So… historically, it has been China which has had more to fear from Japan than the other way round. My guess is that China is losing its mind over this new Japanese policy of militarization-- and it's not likely to watch quietly from the sidelines.