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Japan unveils biggest military build-up since World War II


Japan has announced a U.S. $320 billion plan to buy missiles capable of striking the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and North Korea, and ready the nation for sustained conflict as regional tensions and Russia’s Ukraine invasion stoke war fears.

The sweeping, five-year plan unveiled in mid-December 2022 will make Japan the world’s third-biggest military spender after the United States and the PRC, based on current budgets.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who described Japan and its people as being at a “turning point in history,” said the ramp-up was “my answer to the various security challenges that we face.” (Pictured: A Japanese stealth frigate, JS Mogami, participates in the 70th anniversary commemoration of the foundation of Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force in November 2022.)

His government worries that Russia has set a precedent that will encourage the Chinese Communist Party to attack Taiwan, threatening nearby Japanese islands, disrupting supplies of advanced semiconductors and putting a potential stranglehold on sea lanes that supply Middle East oil.

“This is setting a new heading for Japan. If appropriately executed, the Self-Defense Forces will be a real, world-class effective force,” said Yoji Koda, a former Maritime Self Defense Force admiral, who commanded the Japanese fleet in 2008.

The government said it would also stockpile spare parts and other munitions, expand transport capacity and develop cyber warfare capabilities. In its postwar, American-authored constitution, Japan gave up the right to wage war and means to do so.

“Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is a serious violation of laws that forbid the use of force and has shaken the foundations of the international order,” the strategy paper said.

“The strategic challenge posed by China is the biggest Japan has ever faced,” it added, also noting that Beijing had not ruled out using force to bring Taiwan under its control.

A separate national security strategy document that pointed to the PRC, Russia and North Korea, promised close cooperation with the U.S. and other like-minded nations to deter threats to the established international order.

“The prime minister is making a clear, unambiguous strategic statement about Japan’s role as a security provider in the Indo-Pacific,” U.S. Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel said in a statement.

Meeting Japan-Taiwan Exchange Association Chairman Mitsuo Ohashi in Taipei in December, Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen said she expected greater defense cooperation with Japan.

“We look forward to Taiwan and Japan continuing to create new cooperation achievements in various fields such as national defense and security, the economy, trade, and industrial transformation,” the presidential office cited Tsai as saying.

The PRC accused Japan of making false claims in the new security strategy about the People’s Liberation Army’s activities, according to a statement from its embassy in Japan. The PRC subsequently sent warships, including an aircraft carrier, into the West Pacific, causing Japan to place its defense forces on high alert.


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