Japan Signals Its Intention To Hike Defence Spending As Fear Of Chinese Hegemony Grows
Today, Japan's prime minister Fumio Kishida said that he intended to strengthen the island nation's defence capabilities fundamentally over the next five years.
The Japanese prime minister's statement comes amidst the release of his government's policy roadmap.
It is the first policy roadmap since Kishida took the oath of office in October.
The policy roadmap is a blueprint of the next fiscal year's budget. It is significantly different from last year's policy roadmap.
Whilst last year's policy roadmap talked about increase in defence spending, it was much more vague than this year's policy roadmap.
This year's policy roadmap states that Japan seeks to drastically increase its defence spending within the next five years. Unlike the previous year's policy roadmap, this year's policy roadmap goes on to specially mention Taiwan.
This is the first time that Japan's annual economic policy document has directly mentioned Taiwan. It is also the first time that a specific timeframe to increase its defence expenditure has been included in the policy roadmap.
According to reports, neither the specific time frame nor the "reference to the democratic, independent island that China considers as part of its territory, had figured in a draft of the document last week."
Alarm has been growing in Tokyo over China's increasingly hegemonic tendencies in East Asia. The two nations share an incredibly troubled history.
The occupation of China by Imperial Japan remains a source of humiliation and anger in China. The rape of Nanjing remains an essential reading for students in China.
From the script which is used to write Japanese to Buddhism, Japan has adopted a lot from China. Due to this fact, the Chinese have always viewed themselves as a higher civilisation and Japan as lower in the hierarchy.
In China, the fact that a small nation like Japan occupied parts of China, serves as a crucial source of resentment against Japan. This has led to competing claims over the Senkaku Islands.
In 2012, large-scale anti Japanese protests were held all across China. According to many scholars, Japan's invasion of China serves as an important historical incident that led to the formation of contemporary Chinese identity. A shared experience of hardship that created social cohesion.
This troubled, intertwined past of China and Japan ensures that geopolitical tensions between the two countries keeps simmering.
China acquiring a more dominant role in East Asia also threatens Japan's energy security. Sea lanes of East Asia supply Japan's economy with most of its oil.
According to analysts, the rise of China necessitates that Japan spend more on defence, to ensure that the balance of power in Asia, doesn't tilt too much towards China.
Currently, Japan spends only 1 per cent of its GDP on its self defence forces. Japan's public finances are already under strain. A major increase in military expenditure won't be easy.
According to a report by Reuters, "even if Kishida's government finds money to double defence spending, it would still leave Japan far behind China, which already spends almost five times as much on its military."
Japan is due for a national election next month.
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