The Japanese government set forth its latest National Security Strategy today, a comprehensive 10-year plan to build up its defense forces, invest in new weapons, ships, and aircraft, and prepare for conflict in an increasingly hostile neighborhood. The new strategy will focus on defending Japan’s far-flung islands, with new amphibious transport ships and surveillance technology high on the shopping list. North Korea, China, and Russia are named as possible threats to Japan’s security, and the strategy document (a summary is available here in pdf) calls on the US not to abandon its role as the provider of security and stability in the region.
As the New York Times reports, Japan’s Cabinet approved the new national security strategy alongside a spending plan that raises the defense budget by $12 billion to a total of $246 billion, the first such increase in years. The new strategy, a long-held goal of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, moves the country in the direction of what he calls “proactive pacifism.” Japan’s constitution bars the country from maintaining “land, sea and air forces, as well as other war potential”; the new strategy stretches that edict to its limit. As the Times notes, the military upgrades and increased spending “would have once been unthinkable for a nation that long viewed its military with suspicion after its disastrous defeat in World War II.”
The new strategy specifically focuses on China as a threat to peace and security in East Asia: “China is also rapidly expanding and intensifying its activities in waters and airspace, showing its attempts to change the status quo by coercion. Japan needs to pay careful attention to these activities with strong interest. They are also concerns for regional and global security.”
In order to equip Japan in this increasingly dangerous environment, and with an eye on its far-flung islands in the East China Sea, the new spending plan will allow Japan to purchase beach-assault vehicles and American aircraft to support an amphibious infantry force like the US Marine Corps. Officials will also study whether to invest in long-range missiles that could neutralize the threat of a North Korean nuclear strike.
Because of these rising security risks in East Asia, Abe’s long-held plan to make Japan once again a strong nation, militarily as well as economically, has gained more support from the country’s usually pacifist population. Nevertheless, there were protesters outside parliament during the debate over the new strategy and spending plan, which was often heated, the BBC reports. There is still opposition to Abe’s plan to turn Japan away from its pacifist past. His ultimate goal, critics say, is “to take Japan back to the pre-war era, when the emperor was a god and obedience to the Chrysanthemum Throne came above all else.”