Why is peace-loving Japan desperate to arm itself?

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Since the beginning of 2022, Western leadership and the media have been preoccupied with the Ukraine conflict. Meanwhile, another military arrangement in North Asia is swelling.

A few months ago, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida announced that Japan and the Japanese people are at a ‘turning point in history’ and announced a military spending of 32 trillion dollars by 2027. This spending would double Japan’s current military spending and equal to 2 percent of the country’s GDP. This would make Japan the third largest military spender in the world after the United States and China. 

The massive military spending by Japan under the new defense program marks the biggest change in Japan’s defense strategy since the end of World War II. This program of Japan goes completely against the pacifist defense policy mentioned in article 9 of the country’s 1946 constitution. The article states that the Japanese military will attack someone only if the country and its people are attacked militarily. You cannot go outside the country and attack anyone.

However, in 2015, the then Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government passed a law. Under that law, Japan’s Army Self Defense Force (SDF) can take part in any combat on foreign soil.

So why is Japan increasing its military power? Will Japan be more secure militarily than before? The answer is that Japan’s doing these things means that the country considers China a threat. Although Beijing’s intentions on the Japan issue may be said to be apparently calm-benign, Japan is arming itself with China as a threat. This Japanese military buildup will bolster the US-led military arrangement in the Western Pacific, at least in the short term.

Japan believes that the regional and international defense environment will deteriorate in the coming days. In addition, Japan’s long-time ally, the US, ‘expects more military power’ from it. Considering these, Japan has taken initiative to update its military power. US President Joe Biden quickly expressed his support for Japan’s updated defense policy to play a significant role in the deterrence program of the alliance between the two countries. It is not surprising.

Due to North Korea’s missile tests and the country’s increasingly threatening activities, Japan feels that it needs to have its own missile technology and the latest equipment to destroy missiles. At the same time, the Ukraine war has also shaken Japan, as Japan has unresolved borders with Russia and China.

The Japan-US military alliance has been the cornerstone of Japan’s defense strategy since 1951. It is also true, however, that China and Japan have deep commercial ties ($33.34 billion in trade between the two countries in 2022), and that China is already Japan’s largest trading partner. On the other hand, Japan-US economic relations are moving at a much slower pace than that. Trade between these two countries was 23 thousand 46 billion dollars in 2022.

The Japan-US military alliance has been the cornerstone of Japan’s defense strategy since 1951. It is also true, however, that China and Japan have deep commercial ties ($33.34 billion in trade between the two countries in 2022), and that China is already Japan’s largest trading partner. On the other hand, Japan-US economic relations are moving at a much slower pace than that. Trade between these two countries was 23 thousand 46 billion dollars in 2022.

Despite deep trade ties with China, Japan has actively joined the anti-China alliance Quadrilateral Defense Dialogue (Quad) with the United States, Australia and India. Joining the Quad, Japan regularly participates in joint military exercises, exchanges intelligence. Dialogue between top leaders of Quad member countries.

Japan announced a joint venture with Italy and the UK in December 2022 to develop a new type of fighter jet. In addition, Japan has signed a separate agreement with the UK and Australia on mutual military cooperation, which has been strongly criticized by Beijing.

That’s right, China doesn’t have a major conflict with Japan. The two countries are not geopolitical rivals either. However, in addition to Guam, Australia, the Philippines and South Korea, the American military also has a presence in Japan.

So why is Japan increasing its military power? Will Japan be more secure militarily than before? The answer is that Japan’s doing these things means that the country considers China a threat. Although Beijing’s intentions on the Japan issue may be said to be apparently calm-benign, Japan is arming itself with China as a threat. This Japanese military buildup will bolster the US-led military arrangement in the Western Pacific, at least in the short term.

Taken from Gulf News, translated from English

Sajjad Ashraf is a former Pakistani diplomat who has served as Pakistan’s ambassador to several countries

 

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