Japan, from the pacifist path to the eighth army of the planet

On August 31, the government led by Fumio Kishida sent the draft budget for the next fiscal year to the Japanese Diet (Parliament); A procedure which, given the comfortable majority enjoyed by the Liberal Democratic Party (PLD), which he chairs, will be approved without difficulty.

In the defense chapter, there is a proposal to reach 48.7 billion euros, a historic record that continues an uninterrupted upward path that began 12 years ago when the government of the assassinated Shinzo Abe began.

This reinforces the path outlined by Kishida himself to reach 2% of GDP in 2027, which is in line with what NATO also requires of its members, and predictably puts it among the five countries with the highest defense spending.

The increase in the defense budget removes any doubts that may still remain about Japan’s willingness to abandon the pacifist path enshrined in Article 9 of the Constitution, which enshrines war as a nation’s sovereign right and the threat or elimination of war. Use of force as a means of settling international disputes.

In fact, Japan has long had one of the best armies on the planet, despite not formally having an armed force (they have been called the Defense Forces since 1954): the 2023 Global Firepower Index puts it in eighth position. Although until recently its approach was mainly defensive and its deployment was strictly limited to the archipelago.

The reasons that encourage persistence on this path have a name: China, which is by far the main source of threat that Tokyo perceives. Beijing’s expansionist desires, very visible in the South and East China Seas, pose a direct challenge to the control of islands in these areas, primarily the Senkaku (for Tokyo) or the Diaoyu (for Beijing), disputed since the 1970s. of the last century.

Japan’s interest in maintaining its control and taking it away from China is not limited to its geopolitical and military importance (China is trying to free itself from the containment that Washington and its local allies exercise in these seas), but also causes geoeconomic interest. As they are estimated to be very rich in both fisheries and minerals and hydrocarbons.

Added to this are rising tensions between China and Taiwan, which, from Japan’s perspective, points to more instability and insecurity if the much-talked-about island of Beijing is one day invaded.

North Korea is another factor to consider, given Pyongyang’s increasing wave of missile launches, some of which have once again flown over Japanese airspace, much to the public’s alarm.

To this list we have to add Russia, the dispute over the Kuril Islands has not been resolved since the end of the Second World War, and, of course, Ukraine as well, not least because Russia’s invasion of this country leads to an unambiguous course. The trend in defense budgets, given that it is clear that conventional wars are not a thing of the past.

It follows from this that – as set out in the new National Security Strategy, National Defense Strategy and Defense Procurement Program, which were jointly presented last December – the Japanese need to update their security and defense schemes. And the first confirmation contained in the above-mentioned documents is that Tokyo believes that its current capabilities are not sufficient to deter potential enemies.

In essence, this decision opens up its renewed armament, betting both on investing in its own defense industry and on the immediate purchase of weapons systems on the market (mainly in the United States) that allow it not only to defend itself against possible attacks, but also It also projects its power to other latitudes.

It is in this context that one can understand his renewed approach to the United States, which is reflected in Kishida’s participation with South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol in the meeting held by Joe Biden on August 18 at Camp David. The summit, in which the three participants took concrete steps to form what Beijing immediately called a “mini-NATO,” agreed to annual meetings of the three leaders and military maneuvers of their troops, as well as greater cooperation between their intelligence agencies. services to counter a common threat (ie China and North Korea once again).

Through this scheme of relations – in Japan’s case it is supplemented by its participation in the Quad initiative (along with Australia, the United States and India) – Washington tries to make Tokyo more co-responsible in the work of deterrence. Beijing and, conversely, Japan are looking for US support for their own security and guarantees of the presence of an arms supplier, which is still necessary despite its high technological level.

Of course, it will not surprise anyone that China, the second military power on the planet, is also making a move.

Source: El Diario

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