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Japan plans to double defense spending, acquire counterstrike capability

By Sarah May
|
December 24, 2022

In a highly significant and historic change in course, the government of Japan has announced that it will double its defense spending budget and develop a counterstrike ability capable of facilitating retaliatory action on territory abroad, as CBS News reports.

The move is especially surprising given Japan's reputation for proud pacifism and its longtime reliance on the United States in fulfilling its security needs.

Massive changes afoot

As the BBC reports, the Japanese government is poised, among other things, to purchase long-range American missiles able to reach enemy launch sites in the event of an attack.

A step-up in Japanese cyber warfare capabilities is also in the works, according to the outlet.

The scope of the shift is financially noteworthy as well, in that the nation's defense budget will reach 2% of GDP by 2027, according to Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, with the buildup reportedly worth somewhere in the area of $314 billion.

Neighboring threats cited

In detailing his country's rationale for the dramatic change in course, Kishida explained, “Unfortunately, in the vicinity of our country, there are countries carrying out activities such as enhancement of nuclear capability, a rapid military build-up and unilateral attempt to change the status quo by force.”

A recent update to Japan's National Security Strategy further outlined that the country's shared borders with Russia, China, and North Korea place it squarely within “the most severe and complex security environment since the end of World War II.”

The BBC further noted that the aforementioned document referred to China, specifically, as “the greatest strategic challenge ever to securing the peace and stability of Japan,” and the outlet also indicated that North Korea's ever-expanding missile capabilities are also of concern in Tokyo.

Even with the sizable new expenditures and priority shift afoot, Kishida emphasized that his country remains in compliance with Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution, which renounces war.

“Japan's path as a peaceful nation will remain unchanged,” the prime minister assured the global community.

World reacts

According to the Japan Times, Beijing did not react positively to the news of its neighbor's defense plans, with the Chinese government declaring itself “firmly opposed” and “strongly dissatisfied” about the developments.

The Chinese embassy in Japan released a statement asserting that Japan's decision “seriously deviates from the basic facts” and also “provokes regional tension and confrontation.”

Wang Wenbin, spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry implored Japan to “act upon the political consensus that the two countries are cooperative partners and do not pose a threat to each other.”

“Hyping up the 'China threat' to find an excuse for its military buildup is doomed to fail,” added Wang.

The American response, however, was overwhelmingly supportive, with Ambassador Rahm Emanuel writing on Twitter, “A new era in the defense of democracy begins today. PM Kishida's new national security strategy makes a clear, unambiguous strategic statement & puts a capital “D” next to Japan's deterrence,” adding that the move “has enhanced Japan's standing among allies & partners in the Indo-Pacific & Europe.”

“Profound Transformation”

Jennifer Lind, a government professor at Dartmouth College and a faculty associate at the Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies at Harvard University praised Japan for initiating such a monumental change, writing in Foreign Affairs that it signals a “profound transformation” on the world stage.

“Today's changes are motivated by protection, not ambition,” Lind opined. “They are being negotiated transparently among coalition partners, before a watchful and dovish public.”

With its newly formed buildup plans poised to make Japan the third-largest spender in terms of defense programs in the world, Lind believes that the changes “are good news and signal a greater contribution by a peaceful country to security in Asia,” and that is something the United States and its allies can certainly celebrate.