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In response to regional tension, Japan aims to raise national defence expense.

Recalling from history, the Japanese are well known to be pacifist in their military policies. Article 9 of the Japanese constitution clearly states that Japan will not actively seek military conflict solutions through violent means, thus the country has always only owned its Self-Defense Forces.

Yet things have changed throughout the twenty-first century. While coming to the third decade, the Japanese cabinet published a series of new security strategy documents on 16 December 16, 2022, out of them the most important one was the National Security Strategy, which was last updated in 2013.

The document remarkably highlighted two countries, China and Russia. With their aggressions in recent centuries, such as China’s activities in regions like the South China Sea and Taiwan Strait, also with its attempt to challenge the global order’s status quo, and the other side of the world, Russia’s war with the Ukrainians, causing Japan to change its attitude towards both former strategic partners. Japanese Prime Minister, Fumio Kishida denoted that this will be a changing point for Japan’s national security strategy.

With the change in general strategy, Japan began to raise its military expense. With the aim to improve its counter-attack ability, the government agreed to raise National defence expenses from the current 1% of GDP, around 4.3 trillion Yen, doubling to 2% of GDP within the upcoming five years. Particularly the country will be focusing on improving 7 defensive deployments, including missile defence, which helps combat aircraft and hostile missile attacks; Defence for drone attacks as commonly used in the Ukraine-Russian War; and developing the ability to break A2/AD (Anti-Access/Area Denial) deployment, a strategy adopted by China in the East China Sea conflicts.

Coming to 2023, the country continues to adapt to the new defensive policy. On March 28, 2023, the parliament enacted the National budget for fiscal 2023, with the defence budget increasing to 6.83 trillion Yen, an increase of almost half of the last fiscal’s budget, displaying how the country is dedicated to military empowerment. Reports by Japan’s news agencies like Kyodo News+ have even stated that the government is currently drafting its latest 2023 edition of the defence white paper, further detailing how China may be planning to develop a modernised “world-class military”, conducting five joint bomber flights with Russia, causing great concerns of the Japanese, with such activities be seen as a show of force towards Japan. The paper thus highlighted China as the greatest strategic challenge again. This further display how throughout the new decade and with other global conflicts, Japan feels more threatened from regional security aspects, with the final edition of the Defence White paper due to be voted for the pass in the parliament in July 2023.  

Different media like CNN also reported in May 2023 on Japan approaching NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) to open up a NATO liaison office. While Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi emphasised that Japan will only be a global partner but not part of NATO, the opening of the office will pull Japan closer to the Western side, allowing Japan to discuss with other Indo-pacific NATO partners on regional security challenges, such as with South Korea and Australia. Overall, the Japanese are determined to seek stronger self-defence power, especially considering possible outbreaks of conflicts and threats with China, Russia and others.

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