Japanese government approves biggest rearmament since 1945 to combat China and North Korea threats

Image of Japanese PM Fumio Kishida. Credit_ Wikipedia - By 首相官邸, CC BY 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=112128528

The Japanese government has approved a massive rearmament package, the biggest since 1945.


The Japanese government approved a historic deal today, Friday, December 16, that will see the nation’s biggest military rearmament since 1945. Led by Prime Minister, Fumio Kishida, the cabinet gave the green light to three new documents that mark the Defence roadmap for the next decade.

Among its guidelines, a 50 per cent increase in military spending between 2023 and 2027 stands out compared to the previous five years, reaching a total expenditure of approximately €296,000 million.

This amount is equivalent to 2 per cent of Japan’s GDP, which compares its level of spending to that of the NATO countries and shatters the ceiling of less than 1 per cent that Tokyo had maintained since the 1960s.

Today’s news would not have come as a surprise to the country’s citizens. During his tenure, Shinzo Abe –the former prime minister assassinated this summer – was a firm supporter of giving his Armed Forces greater powers and modifying the pacifist Constitution that Washington imposed on him after his military defeat in 1945, as reported by lavanguardia.com.

Following this line, since coming to power last year, Kishida has championed a campaign to influence the need to rearm after the rise of North Korean missile launches. There are also growing challenges from China, which the new plan defines as “a challenge unprecedented strategic situation”.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – a country with which Japan maintains entrenched territorial disputes – has also brought home the need for defending Japanese territory. Kishida’s presence at the NATO summit in Madrid – the first for a Japanese leader in the entire history of the organisation – reinforced that message.

Another of the great novelties is the adoption of the so-called ‘counterattack capacity’. According to the documents, Japan must have the military means to hit targets in enemy territory ‘within the minimum necessary self-defence measures’, to face the ‘most severe security environment since World War II’.

The documents establish three conditions to be able to carry out these ‘counterattacks. In the event of aggression against Japan or an allied country that compromises the survival of the Japanese country, when there are no appropriate means to repel the attack and whenever the use of force is the minimum possible.

Despite the inclusion of these clauses, the measure has generated numerous criticisms given its difficult fit with the Magna Carta, whose article 9 establishes that its Army – 250,000 active soldiers and another 60,000 in the reserve – can only resort to force to defend itself, and renounces war as a way to resolve conflicts.

Kishida told a news conference that Japan’s current defensive capabilities are ‘not enough’ in the face of threats posed by advances in hypersonic missile technologies, capable of changing their path or launching multiple projectiles simultaneously. Therefore, ‘the ability to carry out counterattacks is essential’, he added.

To equip itself with these new capabilities, the country plans to acquire long-distance attack weapons, among which the purchase of American-made Tomahawk cruise missiles – with a range of more than 1,000km – and the domestic development of hypersonic missiles stand out as novelties, along with anti-ship guided missiles and combat drones.

The announcement of the new strategy was met with demonstrations outside the prime minister’s office. ‘For the last 80 years, after World War II, we have had a policy of trying to curb military spending and have renounced force. Now the government is destroying this policy’, Shigeo Kimoto, one of the organizers of the call, told the EFE news agency.

Many Japanese are also concerned about how the government will pay for its new arms investment plan, especially if it means higher taxes.

The plan also aroused suspicion among some of its neighbours such as South Korea and China, where the memory of the Japanese aggression in the first half of the 20th century is still fresh. ‘Exalting the so-called Chinese threat to find an excuse to justify its militarisation is doomed to failure’, criticised Foreign Affairs spokesman Wang Wenbin from Beijing.


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Chris King

Originally from Wales, Chris spent years on the Costa del Sol before moving to the Algarve where he is a web reporter for The Euro Weekly News covering international and Spanish national news. Got a news story you want to share? Then get in touch at [email protected]