Tokyo — President Biden was in Japan on Thursday to join G7 leaders in Hiroshima for Friday’s summit, where the world’s largest economies will grapple with global issues, including China’s massive military build-up in the Pacific Ocean.
Japan, America’s biggest ally in the region, has already done so undertook to double the national defense budget. It drew praise from the US and marked a major departure from more than 75 years of foreign policy.
Japan’s constitution was written in 1945 by the American occupation authorities after World War II specifically to ensure that the country would never go to war again. Article 9 of this constitution prohibits Japan from settling international disputes by force. This position was reflected in the official name of the Japanese armed forces, which are still called the Self-Defense Forces. These forces are allowed to defend the country, but not to conduct offensive actions.
Recently, however, China has become increasingly aggressive in its military posture and build-up, as well as concerns about its intentions Kim Jong-un’s regime in North Koreachanged both the context and the mood.
In August last year during huge war games around TaiwanChina tested five missiles which landed in Japanese waters. Then in December, China sailed its only aircraft carrier between the two southern islands of Japan.
As a result, there is now widespread support in Japan for a stronger military.
Naurushigo Mitishita, a professor of defense policy in Tokyo, told CBS News that the decision to sharply increase Japan’s defense spending “could have been much more controversial if not for China’s massive military build-up, its coercive and sometimes even aggressive actions that it takes in South China Sea.”
Earlier this spring, Japan hosted a defense and security exhibition that attracted manufacturers of all kinds of military equipment, from reconnaissance robots to fighter jets and the latest missiles. The event would have been unthinkable in pacifist Japan even ten years ago.
Ron Trifus, who led the Israeli delegation at the show, told CBS News that his country’s defense equipment manufacturers see Japan as a “market with great potential.”
This potential lies in the huge projected increase in Japan’s defense spending, which is set to double by 2027.
“This is a major, major change,” Tryfus said. “This exhibit here, now in this event here, I think reflects the change.”
Doubling its spending would give Japan the third-largest national defense budget in the world, and would see billions of dollars flowing to US arms companies such as Tomahawk missiles and F-35 fighter jets.
“People now understand how serious this is,” Mitishita said, adding that “a potentially controversial shift in Japan’s defense policy has so far been largely accepted by the Japanese public.”
But it’s a big cultural shift.
Until now, the Japan Self-Defense Forces (SDF) have been known more for search and rescue than combat. The military did not fare very well either. Also, a career in the SDF does not have much social status in Japan.
Self-defense forces invest in action-packed commercials to attract young recruits, so the massive investment in weapons is accompanied by an increase in well-trained personnel.
But despite the increase in wages, the company was unable to convince young Japanese to join the service en masse. The latest recruitment drive aimed to register 10,000 new service members. He missed the target by half.