04/30/2022, 12.46
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Security, Tokyo wants to double military spending and equip itself with missiles

by Guido Alberto Casanova

The Liberal Democratic Party has presented the Prime Minister and the Defence Minister with recommendations on revising national security policy. There are two objectives: to raise the budget to 2% of GDP within five years and to equip itself with "counter-attack capabilities". A controversial proposal that contradicts the pacifist post-war constitution.



Tokyo (AsiaNews) - In recent days the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) has presented to Prime Minister Kishida Fumio and Defence Minister Kishi Nobuo its recommendations on how to revise national security policy. The content of the proposals drawn up by the PDL research group does not contain any major surprises compared to what has been discussed in recent months, but it will serve as a foundation for the writing of the new National Security Strategy document, which is expected to be discussed by the government towards the end of this year.

The recommendations take note of an increasingly hostile external environment starting with Russia's aggression against Ukraine, not forgetting the development of North Korea's missile and nuclear programme or China's growing military manoeuvres around Taiwan. "We want our country to be able to respond to the increased [military] capabilities of other states," said Onodera Itsunori, who chaired the research group.

There are two key recommendations in the text. The first is to raise the defence budget to 2 per cent of GDP over five years. It is an unwritten rule of Japanese policy that defence spending should not exceed 1 per cent, which the Tokyo government has adhered to since the war. According to some LDP parliamentarians, the 2% threshold should not be considered as a target, but rather as an indicator: doubling the defence budget would allow Japan to align itself with the military spending commitments of NATO countries and, consequently, to sit at the table of the allies as an equal.

The second recommendation is the most controversial, because it requires Tokyo to equip itself with "counter-attack capabilities", i.e. missile capacities capable of striking enemy bases and military assets outside its territory. Until now, the Rising Sun has only kept defensive devices in its arsenal to intercept incoming missiles. However, the paper suggests that developments in launching technology have made these devices insufficient for the country's defence and that Tokyo should equip itself with its own missiles capable of neutralising enemy forces when they appear on the verge of launching an attack against Japan if there is no other solution.

However, this proposal is seen as contradictory to the exclusively defensive security policy that characterises Japanese strategy, as well as to the pacifist constitution, Article 9 of which provides for the renunciation of all forms of belligerence. In order to allay fears that these are offensive devices, the research team changed its terminology from 'enemy base attack capability' to 'counterattack capability'.

The Japanese public was in fact deeply divided over the previous terminology, which seemed to imply that pre-emptive strikes were being contemplated, with 46% against and 46% in favour. Doubling defence spending, on the other hand, enjoys greater consensus: according to a Nikkei poll, 55% of respondents were in favour, while 33% were against.

The Kishida government is therefore preparing to revise its security strategy, as it faces difficult choices to respond to the 9 out of 10 Japanese who feel that East Asia has become increasingly unstable in recent years. In addition to overcoming the resistance of the Komeito, a Buddhist-inspired party that governs in coalition with the LP, Kishida will have to balance the pressure of the right-wing hawks led by Abe Shinzo and the expectations of the population, while remaining within a regulatory framework that restricts the room for manoeuvre of defence policy. 

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