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Japan announces defense budget hike in response to growing threats in East Asia.

Image Credit: Reuters

On Wednesday afternoon, Japan’s Defense Ministry announced that it requested an 3.3% increase from the initial defense budget for the current fiscal year until March 2021. The record $52 billion budget, if approved, will be Japan’s largest increase in more than two decades. It marks nine straight years of military budget increases. Stephen Nagy, a senior associate professor at International Christian University in Tokyo said,

‘The Defense’s Ministry request for another modest increase in defense spending reflects the changing understanding of the security challenges Japan is facing and the tools it wishes to acquire to mitigate these challenges.’

Japan feels threatened by the rapid modernization and aggression of the Chinese army, and an unstable North Korea. The Defense Ministry said that the money will be allocated to respond to new threats posed by China. These include cyber warfare, electromagnetic and space warfare. The cyber-warfare defense unit will receive $340 million to create a new unit, and boost electromagnetic warfare capabilities. Japan’s space force will receive $690 million. If the budget is approved, Japan will launch a new cyber unit which will have 540 personnel, and a planned space unit with 70 personnel. Japan also requested an alternative to the Aegis Ashore missile interception system developed by the US. The new missile interception system will be primarily used to intercept any possible missile attacks from North Korea. This missile interception system request was not included in the budget, but Japan needs a lot of missile interceptors, and has suggested the idea of having more Aegis destroyers equipped with missile interceptors, if a new missile interception system is not found.

China increase in territorial disputes in the South China sea, and clashes over the Ladakh region bordering India has caused unease in Japan. Japan intends to make several big purchases, which includes two frigates and a submarine, in an attempt to strengthen its navy to protect Japan’s seas. Money will also be allocated in the research and production of a next-generation fighter. Japan also announced that it will buy 42 F-35B in the coming years. The US developed F-35B, a fifth generation fighter jet considered to be one of the most advanced multi-role and stealth fighter jets in the World. The Defense Ministry announced that to accommodate the fighter jets, it will seek around $30 million to reconfigure one of it’s two helicopter carriers, Kaga, with a type of flight deck which is heat resistant, allowing F-35 to fly off it unhindered.

The Japanese government budget was delayed to the end of September, due to the challenges it is facing due to the coronavirus pandemic, but US pressure on Japan to increase its defense spending, encouraged Japan to increase to spend more on defense, as its takes a greater role in bringing regional stability in East Asia.

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