Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has announced the country’s biggest military build-up since the end of World War II. Under the plan, which would last for five years, the Japanese government will spend a staggering $315 billion (43 trillion yen) in its defence budget for five years.
Prime Minister Kishida unveiled the “National Defence Strategy” and “Defense Build-Up Program,” which increases the country’s defence budget to about 2 per cent of the country’s GDP. Following the increase, Japan had climbed to become the third highest military spender, only behind the United States and China.
Under the new adoption, Japan is expected to buy missiles capable of striking China and prepare for a long-term conflict, should there be any. The decision is not unconnected with the Russian-Ukraine war and the growing tensions between China and Taiwan.
Fumio Kishida described the decision as a turning point in the history of Japan and his answer to the various security threats facing the country. He fears that if Russia could attack Ukraine, China could invade Taiwan someday, adversely affecting the Japanese Islands close to the conflict areas.
Standing up to China
The decision to boost Japan’s military capabilities can be said to be because of China. Various activities taking place in the region might have raised the fears of the Japanese government. For instance, China, for years, has been developing its navy and air forces close to Japan’s borders. The Chinese government had also laid claim to the Senkaku Island, an uninhabited Japanese territory.
Japan is also in the middle of the ongoing tension between China and Taiwan. Following the frequent military drills in the region, the Japanese government claimed that some Chinese missiles entered its territory. Japan considers the recent move as a way to prevent and possibly defend itself from such threats.
One of the documents released on Friday stated that China poses a “threat to the residents of the region,” citing five ballistic missiles that flew past the area in August during the Chinese military drill near Taiwan after Nancy Pelosi visited the Island.
Japan, being an ally of the United States, might have accepted that an enemy of the US is also its enemy. With the growing influence of China in East Asia, both Japan and the United States are wary of China, hence the need to prepare for the worse.
The recent events might have caused Japan to rethink its defence system. One of the strategy papers released on Friday said: “Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is a serious violation of laws that forbid the use of force and has shaken the foundations of the international order.”
The document added that “the strategic challenge posed by China is the biggest Japan has ever faced” and that the country would be affected should China invade Taiwan as it could be preparing to do.
The threats from neighbours are not only limited to China. In October, North Korea fired dangerous missiles across Japan, raising concerns about its air defence system.
However, with the new military build-up, Japan could have deviated from its own constitution, which renounces war as a means of settling international disputes.
Japan’s article 9 and the gradual deviation from it
For many years, Japan has interpreted article 9 of the country’s constitution to allow some sort of military build-ups, beginning with the arrival of US troops. However, Kishida’s decision is one the country had never witnessed even though it is accepted by over 70% of Japanese.
Article 9 of Japan’s constitution states: “Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes.”
“In order to accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized,” the law stated.
The country’s law was rewritten after the negative effects of the Second World War. Since then, Japan has done very little to defend itself, as it tends to invest more in diplomacy.
It appears that Japan’s ministry of defence had tactfully accepted that it has deviated from the law.
“Amid the most severe and complex security environment since the end of WWII, it is necessary to face a severe reality and engage in fundamental reinforcement of defence capabilities to protect the lives and peaceful livelihood of Japanese nationals,” the ministry of defence wrote on Twitter.
“Maintaining Japan’s own sovereignty and independence can be achieved through its own independent and voluntary efforts,” it added.
For years, different leaders of Japan had interpreted article 9 to suit the security situations of the country at various times. The most recent is the farthest deviation from the pledge of diplomacy.
The United States extends its support
Japan is US’ closest ally in East Asia. Many have attributed the sudden turn of events to the influence of Washington in Tokyo. Following Friday’s decision by Japan, the United States said it’s in support of the decision.
“We welcome the release of Japan’s updated strategy documents … which reflect Japan’s staunch commitment to upholding the international rules-based order and a free and open Indo-Pacific,” US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said in a statement.
“We support Japan’s decision to acquire new capabilities that strengthen regional deterrence, including counterstrike capabilities,” Austin added.
The United States has managed to maintain its influence in East Asia with the presence of its troops.
What China says
China, on the other hand, had “firmly opposed” the development, describing it as a misguided decision. The Chinese embassy in Tokyo accused Japan of using Beijing as an excuse to boost its military when there is no basis for it.
“Hyping up the ‘China threat’ to find an excuse for its military buildup is doomed to fail,” Wang Wenbin, the spokesperson of the Chinese foreign ministry, said.