Japan boosts defense capabilities in new strategy document


TOKYO — Japan on Friday unveiled sweeping changes to its national security strategy and a big increase in its defense budget, a dramatic shift to ditch its postwar dovish restrictions as it grapples with growing security threats and risk. war in the Indo-Pacific. .

Wary of the growing military threat posed by China, North Korea’s nuclear ambitions and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Japan is prepared to take a tougher stance to defend itself and improve its capabilities to do so.

Among the notable changes is a move to acquire “counter-strike” capabilities, or the ability to attack enemy bases with long-range missiles and coordinate with the United States in such circumstances, and an increase in its defense budget to 2 percent of the gross domestic product. for five years, making it the third largest in the world.

“Each and every one of us must be aware that we are protecting our country. This is very important, as we have learned from Ukraine,” Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said at a news conference on Friday. “We are now at an inflection point in our national security policy.”

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The Russian invasion of Ukraine has been a catalyst for the wave of changes in Japan’s defense and national security posture that were unthinkable even earlier this year.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine showed the Japanese that a Chinese takeover of Taiwan could be a reality, raising public awareness and increasing support for Japan to take steps to improve its defense capabilities.

The new strategy documents released Friday do not name China directly as a threat, but say Beijing’s diplomatic posture and military activities are of “serious concern” and present an unprecedented “greater strategic challenge” to ensuring peace in Japan and the international community. Japanese officials say they still aim for a “constructive and stable relationship” with China through communication at various levels.

In August, after US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) visited Taipei, an outraged Beijing carried out aggressive military exercises near Taiwan, including firing missiles ballistic that landed in Japan’s exclusive economic zone. This is in addition to multiple air and sea incursions into the waters surrounding Japan.

Meanwhile, over the past year, North Korea has tested an unprecedented number of ballistic missiles as part of its nuclear weapons program. even sending one to Japan for the first time in five years.

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Japanese officials have concluded that current capabilities are insufficient, Kishida said.

Japan aims to improve its long-range strike capability with Japanese-made and imported foreign long-range weapons, such as US-made Tomahawk cruise missiles.

Japan’s defense policy will remain defense-oriented and counter-attacks will only be used under certain limited conditions, according to the documents. The new strategy does not allow preemptive strikes.

The new strategy documents noted that the countries surrounding Japan have made significant progress in missile-related technologies, both qualitatively and quantitatively. Missile attacks against Japan are now a “palpable threat,” and Japan needs capabilities beyond existing ballistic missile defenses to protect itself, she said. Japan views counter-attack capabilities as a potentially powerful conventional deterrent.

Over the next decade, Japan aims to develop capabilities that will make it “possible to disrupt and defeat invasions against your nation much sooner and from a greater distance,” according to the strategy.

Japan will increase defense personnel and strengthen the core capabilities of its Self-Defense Forces, according to released strategy documents, as well as enhance its capabilities in space and cybersecurity.

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The Biden administration has welcomed Japan’s moves as part of a deepening alliance that reinforces the US strategy of regional cooperation to improve security. Other aspects of that strategy include a deal in which the United States and Britain help Australia develop nuclear-powered submarines and remove limits on South Korea building ballistic missiles.

Kishida “has put a capital ‘D’ next to Japan’s deterrence,” US Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel said in a statement. “The Prime Minister is making a clear and unambiguous strategic statement on Japan’s role as a security provider in the Indo-Pacific. He has enhanced Japan’s standing in service of its diplomatic and political engagement with allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific and in Europe.”

Japan has also been diversifying its security partnerships with countries in the region and in Europe, as part of an ongoing effort to strengthen relations with like-minded countries trying to counter China’s rise.

How Japan will pay for the new strategy is being debated. Kishida said on Friday that three-quarters of the funds may come from reallocating current spending to defense. The rest will come through taxes on a mix of corporate income, tobacco and disaster reconstruction, said the prime minister, who has faced criticism for shifting some of the new defense spending to taxpayers.

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