The formally pacifist country has unveiled a major $320 billion five-year defense spending plan
Japan adopted sweeping changes to its national defense strategy on Friday, announcing a major military spending plan. It pledged to attain long-debated “counterattack capabilities” to target the bases and command centers of its adversaries with long-range missiles.
The plan, spanning a five-year period, envisions boosting the country’s defense spending to 2% of GDP, which constitutes a 50% hike in the annual military budget and amounts to a total of some $320 billion.
“Looking at Japan’s surroundings, it is facing the most severe and complex security environment since the end of World War II,” the country’s new National Security Strategy (NSS) reads, referring to growing pressure from “those seeking to unilaterally change the status quo by force.”
The strategy named Japan’s neighbors, including China and North Korea, as the biggest threats to the nation. “The strategic challenge posed by China is the biggest Japan has ever faced,” the document claims. It also branded the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine a “serious violation of laws that forbid the use of force and has shaken the foundations of the international order.”
According to the NSS, long-range missiles pose “a real threat” to Japan, and the counterstrike capability is “key” to deterring allegedly aggressive neighbors, which have “dramatically improved” their own strike potential. The strategy also cited tensions over Taiwan among the reasons for the military investment.
Beijing has already condemned the proposed military expansion, with Foreign Military spokesman Wang Wenbin telling a media briefing on Friday that Tokyo has been “inciting provocations and creating troubles” in the region itself.
“The defense policy document issued by Japan ignores the facts, deviates from Japan’s commitment to bilateral relations and the consensus between China and Japan, and smears China’s national defense posture and normal military activities for no reason,” he said.
Washington, however, hailed the “bold and historic step” taken by Tokyo. “The strategy sets forth the vision of Prime Minister Kishida and the Japanese people for a broad and strong community of partners and allies in support of peace and stability in the region,” National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said, welcoming Tokyo’s efforts to “strengthen and modernize” the US-Japan alliance.
Japan renounced war as a foreign policy tool back in 1947, with the pacifist provision remaining enshrined in its constitution under Article 9. However, Japan’s Self-Defense Force has since developed into a full-fledged military, boasting advanced hardware as well as numerous warplanes and warships.