Japan has been locked into a pacifist policy since the bloody ending of World War II. That is now changing due to emerging threats from China and North Korea.
The Japanese are adding an additional $6.75 billion to an already record defense budget. The increase will provide additional air defense and maritime capability for Japan’s Self Defense Forces. The budget will allow the Japanese to have an “enemy base strike capability” which is a very divisive policy among Japanese politicians as according to some of the dovish members of the government as it violates the war-renouncing Japanese Constitution.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has renewed his vow to consider “all options,” including the aforementioned enemy base strike capability, to protect the country amid growing threats from China and North Korea. Kishida reiterated that the threat reality “is [more severe] than ever.”
With the Chinese increasingly threatening Taiwan, the Japanese are growing concerned that this will bring the Chinese to within about 100 kilometers of their territory. This would threaten the same shipping lanes that supply the lifeblood of oil and other trade that the United States cut during the war. It would also open up the entire western Pacific to the rapidly growing Chinese navy.
Meanwhile, the North Koreans continue to testfire and increase their ballistic missile capability threatening the Japanese islands. Part of the increased defense spending will allow Japanese forces to field more Patriot PAC-3 missile batteries, anti-submarine missiles, and other weapons.
The Japanese Defense Ministry released a statement asking lawmakers to approve a record defense spending bill that increases defense expenditures by 20 percent over 2020. It will raise defense spending from one to 1.3 percent of the country’s GDP. During election pledges in early October, Kishida’s ruling party and the Defense Ministry had proposed an increase of two percent of the GDP.
“As the security environment around Japan worsens at unprecedented speed, our urgent task is to accelerate the implementation of various projects,” the Japanese Ministry of Defense said.
During a troop review on Saturday, Prime Minister Kishida said that the protection of the people is paramount.
“I will consider all options, including possessing so-called enemy base strike capability, to pursue strengthening of defense power that is necessary,” Kishida said.
“The security environment surrounding Japan has been rapidly changing at an unprecedented speed. Things that used to happen only in science-fiction novels are today’s reality,” he added.
Kishida’s stance is an about-face from his previous dovish policies. His current policies are more in line with the rest of his party including former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
With a rapidly aging population, many Japanese lawmakers want to spend the cash on more social programs, but due to emerging threats from China and North Korea, those programs will have to wait.