Japan Is Supercharging Its Military In Response To China Threat

Tomohiro Ohsumi/Pool via REUTERS

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Micaela Burrow Investigative Reporter, Defense
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Japan’s military requested a record defense budget for 2023 Wednesday following several moves designed to improve its defenses against a rising threat from China.

The 5.6 trillion yen request, equivalent to roughly $40.4 billion, could grow to as much as 6.5 trillion yen once procurement costs for some weapons can be defined after the government adopts a new national security strategy in December, The Associated Press reported. Concerns over China’s military buildup has accelerated Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s drive to expand Japan’s military over the next five years and deepen security cooperation with the U.S., Israel and neighbors in the Asia-Pacific. (RELATED: US Holds Joint Military Drills With Key Asian Ally Amid North Korean, Chinese Threats)

“China continues to threaten to use force to unilaterally change the status quo and is deepening its alliance with Russia,” the ministry said in its budget request, according to Reuters.

Kishida has advocated to double the Japanese military’s defense spending from 1% of the country’s GDP to 2%, roughly 10 trillion yen or $72 billion, paralleling NATO’s spending quota, The Wall Street Journal reported in April. That could make Japan’s military the world’s third largest behind the U.S. and China.

“As we fundamentally strengthen our defense power within the next five years, we need to secure a budget adequate for the first year,” Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada said at a meeting of officials to approve the budget request.

Parliament has until April, the beginning of the fiscal year to approve the final budget that could total at 20% higher than the one for 2022, the AP reported local media as saying.

The budget contains a directive to mass produce cruise missiles and high-velocity ballistic missiles to expand the target range, a stark departure from the short-range missiles authorized in previous budget requests, Reuters reported. Japan’s constitution limits the Self Defense Forces to fielding missiles within a few hundred kilometers of the country.

Japan may place up to 1,000 long-range missiles in locations where they will be capable of reaching Chinese and North Korean targets, Reuters reported Sunday.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine also sparked worries among officials China could launch a similar war in Asia, as Moscow reinforces military ties with Beijing, the AP reported. The two countries announced plans to hold joint military exercises from Sept. 1 to Sept. 7, The Associated Press reported.

China launched missiles into Japan’s exclusive economic zone during the military drills it staged around Taiwan earlier in August, which Taiwan called a rehearsal for an invasion.

Japan signed a bilateral defense cooperation agreement with Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz as he wrapped up a visit to the island Tuesday, Reuters reported. Gantz predicted a shift in Japanese defense policy from its WWII-era pacifism.

“There will be real-world ramifications to this, both on the military level and in research and development, and also on the level of defense industries down the line,” Gantz said, Reuters reported. Israel is one of the world’s largest defense exporters.

The U.S., South Korea and Japan concluded joint exercises in Hawaii earlier in August, also the first of their kind since 2017, amid a backdrop of military drills and threats of war from China and North Korea, Reuters reported.

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