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Japan Plans to Arm Itself to the Teeth as Neighborhood Gets Scarier

Prime Minister Abe Attends Naval Fleet Review

Japan will increase military spending by 3 percent in the coming year, the defense minister said today; it’s the biggest increase in 22 years. “There are various tensions ongoing in Asia, and in some cases, there are countries that even use threats,” the AP reports the defense minister as saying.

The top dangers facing Japan these days are an increasingly belligerent North Korea and an aggressive China. Japan’s military plans to enhance surveillance and maintain a marine defense force that can be deployed to defend or retake far-flung islands. Japan already has the fifth-largest defense budget in the world, as Time reports, and its navy “bristles with modern submarines and surface warships, with highly trained crews.”

Still, is the increase enough to balance China? Several analysts who spoke to Time said it isn’t. China spent three times as much as Japan on defense in 2012. Japan has also signaled a need to partner with its neighbors in South and Southeast Asia to combat China’s “bullying.” Indeed, the increase in defense spending isn’t likely to add much to Japan’s military capabilities. Much of the increase will go to paying salaries that were cut after the tsunami, and it’s not clear the rest will bring in new attack helicopters or surveillance equipment anytime soon.

Nevertheless, it’s clear that Shinzo Abe’s hawkish government intends to stand up to Japan’s aggressive neighbors. Meanwhile, many of those neighbors (and even the quieter ones, like India) are themselves pursuing bigger military budgets, more capable navies, and more aggressive defense of disputed territory.

[Japanese warships photo courtesy of Getty Images]

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  • Andrew Allison

    “Still, is the increase enough to balance China?” misses the point. The question is China versus the rest, which in case of at least some of the countries being threatened, includes US.

  • Pete

    Japan can produce arms to its heart’s content, but given the country’s dying demographics, who is going to wield them, robots?

    • NoCharlyGaul

      I thought the Japanese perfected robotics? You never know, maybe they’ll have very good robot armies!

      re Chinese bullying: With China currently buying their way to African mineral resources, I wonder when the great cultural clash between Islam & the Chinese will occur. Both are unaccommodating cultures — friction is bound to occur. And when that happens, maybe it will take the military defense pressure off of Japan and India and, hopefully, the U.S.

      • jhp151

        China policy does not include telling other countries how to treat non-Chinese people. So the only issue will be the existing conflict in the Xinjiang

        • NoCharlyGaul

          re not telling others how to treat non-Chinese: That’s just it: they are happy to grease palms in Africa and look the other way while they mine resources for their own benefit. And they are not Islam.

  • Fred O’Neill

    3% increase?!?!?!?! hardly “arming to the teeth”

  • Fred O’Neill

    in 2012 they spent $59.3 Bn. a 3% increase puts them at $61 Bn. not impressed

  • Terenc Blakely

    It’s been an article of faith with a lot of Japanese for decades that the military presence of the U.S. in the region was provocative and if the U.S. military left that tensions would diminish. I wonder what those Japanese now think?

    • Doug

      What Japanese people think that? A few leftists on college campuses, maybe?

      • Terenc Blakely

        Actually, a fair number believe that. You can see it alluded to in a lot of their entertainment that involves international affairs. Also, it’s a core belief with most who want the Okinawa base closed.

  • Alexander Scipio

    If China and DPRK are her enemies, she’ll need nukes to deter them. Be interesting to watch that choice….

  • Dan Hossley

    The Japanese spend about 1% of GDP on defense compared to the US at about 4%. The proposed 3% increase puts them in the company of Sweden?, perhaps Spain?

  • Charles Hammond Jr

    The whole world is gearing up for war.

    This is a whole lot of not good.

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