Japan approves major defense overhaul, warning of Chinese threats

TOKYO: Japan on Friday endorsed a major overhaul of its defense policy, including a significant increase in spending, as it warned that China posed the “greatest strategic challenge of all time” to its security.
In its biggest defense shake-up in decades, Japan has pledged to increase security spending to 2% of GDP by 2027, reshape its military command and acquire new missiles capable of hitting sites. from distant enemy launches.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told a press conference that he was “determined to remain resolute in our mission to protect and defend the nation and its people, at this turning point in history”.
“In our neighboring countries and regions, the build-up of nuclear missile capabilities, rapid military build-up and attempts to unilaterally change the status quo by force have become even more pronounced,” he said, referring to the invasion. of Ukraine by Russia as an example of the changing times.
Polls suggest that the Japanese public broadly supports the change, but the changes could still be controversial as Japan’s post-war constitution does not officially recognize the military and limits it to nominally self-defense capabilities.
The moves are outlined in three defense and security documents approved by the cabinet on Friday.
They describe Beijing as “the greatest strategic challenge ever faced in securing Japan’s peace and stability”, as well as a “serious concern” for Japan and the international community.
In response, the government plans to increase defense spending to 2% of GDP by FY2027, bringing Japan in line with NATO member guidelines.
This marks a significant increase from historic spending of around 1% and has drawn criticism over how it will be funded.
The money will fund projects including acquiring what Japan calls “counterattack capability” – the ability to strike at launch sites that threaten the country.
The documents warn that Japan’s current missile intercept systems are no longer sufficient, and Kishida said the counterattack capability “will be essential in the future”.
While Japanese governments have long suggested that counterattacks to neutralize enemy attacks would be permitted under the constitution, there has been little appetite for securing the capability.
That has changed with the continued growth of Chinese military might and a record volley of North Korean missile launches in recent months, including into Japanese territory.
Yet, in a nod to the sensitivity of the issue, the documents rule out preemptive strikes and insist that Japan is committed to “an exclusively defense-oriented policy.”
“Japan’s adherence to the three non-nuclear principles, exclusive defense policy and its progress as a peaceful nation will remain unchanged,” Kishida said on Friday.
The counterattack capability will involve both upgrading existing Japanese weaponry, but also purchasing US-made Tomahawk missiles, which would be up to 500.
Other changes include the creation of a permanent joint command for Japan’s armed forces as well as the strengthening of its coast guard.
Army base troops in the southwestern islands will be doubled and logistics bolstered “to enable rapid deployment of troops from all over Japan” in the event of an emergency, Kishida said.
Among the documents is the National Security Strategy, which is being updated for the first time since its launch in 2013.
His language on relations with China and Russia has hardened considerably.
The strategy document previously stated that Japan seeks a “mutually beneficial strategic partnership” with Beijing, a phrase that has disappeared from this iteration.
Instead, he suggests a “constructive and stable relationship” and better communication.
And while the document once called for stronger ties and cooperation with Russia, it now warns that Moscow’s military posture in Asia and cooperation with China is “a serious security concern”.
On Friday, the Chinese Foreign Ministry urged Japan to “reflect on its policy”.
“Japan ignores facts, deviates from China-Japan common understanding and commitment to bilateral relations, and discredits China,” the ministry spokesperson said. Wang Wen Bin told reporters.
However, US President Joe Biden said Washington commends “Japan’s contributions to peace and prosperity”.
“The United States stands with Japan at this critical time. Our alliance is the cornerstone of a free and open Indo-Pacific,” he wrote on Twitter.
The strategy contained in the documents represents a major shift in Japan’s military posture, according to Chris Hughes, professor of international politics and Japanese studies at the University of Warwick.
“The Japanese government will describe these changes as necessary, moderate and fully in line with the previous defense posture,” he told AFP.
Yet “they will, in the words often used by the (ruling) Liberal Democratic Party itself in policy documents, “radically strengthen “Japan’s military might,” said Hughes, author of the book “Japan as a Global Military Power”. .


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