Japan’s cabinet has approved a record $56 billion defense budget for fiscal year 2024, marking a significant boost to the country’s military spending in the face of growing threats from China and North Korea. The budget, which is up 16.5% from last year, will fund key defensive capabilities including longer range missiles, stealth fighters, naval vessels and anti-aircraft batteries.
Lead Up To The Decision
Over the past decade, Japan has witnessed the rapid modernization and expansion of Chinese military forces as well as provocative activities by North Korea, including frequent missile tests. This has raised alarms in Tokyo over potential security risks to the region.
After years of relative peace and restrictions on assertive military expansion due to pacifist policies put in place after World War II, pressure has grown on Japan to take a more proactive role in its own defense. Although the country has maintained a Self-Defense Force to provide for domestic security, there has been debate over enhancing its long-range strike weapons, preemptive strike capacities and overall force posture.
In late 2021, Japan released two landmark defense strategy documents outlining plans to increase defense spending by 43% through 2027 due to what it called the “increasingly severe security environment” posed by China and North Korea. The strategy also called for preemptive strike capabilities.
Key Factors Driving Buildup
Several events over the past two years have accelerated Japan’s military buildup:
- China’s increasing military assertiveness around Taiwan and in disputed areas like the East China Sea
- North Korean missile tests over Japan highlighting vulnerabilities
- Russia’s invasion of Ukraine heightening security concerns globally
In August 2022, the Ministry of Defense requested a record $59 billion for fiscal 2023, although the final approved budget ended up being around $50 billion.
Details Of Approved 2024 Budget
The newly approved fiscal 2024 defense budget of $56 billion reflects what officials described as an “urgent need to accelerate defense buildup” given rising tensions.
Key capabilities to be funded include:
- Longer Range Missiles: Development and acquisition of upgraded Type 12 surface-to-ship missiles with extended range to defend remote southwestern islands from Chinese warships operating nearby. These will double the current 100km to 1000km range.
- Stealth Fighters: Continued procurement of advanced F-35A and F-35B stealth fighters, which can evade radar and penetrate sophisticated air defenses like those fielded by China. The budget funds at least 40 more F-35 fighters.
- Naval Vessels: Funding secured for two new Aegis destroyers equipped with Aegis radar tracking systems to monitor air and missile threats. These will be outfitted with new interceptor missiles to shoot down incoming projectiles. Construction to begin in 2024.
- Missile Defenses: Additional PAC-3 MSE anti-aircraft and anti-missile interceptor batteries as well as integrated air and missile defense network radars across Japan’s southwest islands. This aims to counter China’s expanding arsenal of ballistic and cruise missiles.
- Total Acquisition Expenses: A record $13.8 billion marked for equipment purchases and systems development like missiles, aircraft, vessels, vehicles and other hardware.
|FY2024 Japan Defense Budget
|Personnel & Provisions
|Base Upgrades & Construction
In addition to military procurement, the budget includes continued growth in funding for cybersecurity elements and the Japan Coast Guard to reinforce monitoring and law enforcement presence around disputed East China Sea islands administered by Japan but also claimed by China.
Significance And Likely Impact
The latest Japanese defense budget marks a conscious shift to markedly strengthen the nation’s military deterrence in the face of Chinese and North Korean antagonism that shows no signs of abating. If sustained over several years, the expansions in offensive and defensive weaponry will provide Japan with far more robust self-defense capacity.
However, the moves, which align with Japan’s recent declaration of preemptive strike doctrine, also signal greater willingness to project power abroad. This could increase tensions given the history of conflict between Japan and other Asian neighbors in the 20th century.
While Japan is cementing itself as a central anchor for U.S. alliance networks in containing China, some ask if pumping up defense spending will raise regional anxieties and spark an arms race leading to greater chances of miscalculation in a crisis.
Others counter that passive policies have only enabled assertive rivals and that proactive balancing efforts are overdue to shore up stability and restraint. They argue Japan is responding proportionally to threats posed by Chinese and North Korean militarization over the past 20 years.
With politicians in Tokyo declaring intentions to continue military budget increases beyond 2027 and expand power projection options like counterstrike missiles, Japan appears fully committed to abandoning post-war restraints completely. Upcoming elections and leadership transitions could alter this trajectory, but the public largely supports an advanced military anchored closely to Washington’s.
Far from embracing solely defensive arms, Japan seems destined to continue marching toward fielding offensive capacities that allow it to reciprocate strikes during hostilities. This expansive martial revival centered on advanced air, naval and soon space-based technologies means the Japan Self-Defense Force in another decade may rival European counterparts.
While Japan faces no direct and immediate attack scenarios from adversaries like in Ukraine, its proximity to nuclear-armed rivals with opaque intentions will likely prompt sustainment of heightened defense outlays.
As the defeated power in WWII looks to take responsibility for its own security, long-standing assumptions of lasting Japanese military submission have vanished almost overnight. With spiking investments also happening in South Korea and Taiwan, experts predict 2023 may mark a pivotal year of strategic realignment across the Western Pacific.
This story was compiled from the latest news reports on Japan’s newly approved record defense budget for fiscal year 2024. It provides context on factors influencing Tokyo’s decision as well as details and analysis on what the budget entails along with discussion of potential regional implications given recent shifts in Japanese security policy to address threats posed by China and North Korea in conjunction with the United States.
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