By Jin Yinan
On September 3, Russia celebrated its first Day of Victory over Militaristic Japan and the End of World War II, the name of which was changed from "the Day of the End of World War II" by a law signed by Russian President Putin on June 24 of this year.
According to Russia's explanatory legal documents, the reason for changing the name of the Day is primarily because after Russia conducted special military operations, Japan, in conjunction with Western allies, initiated unprecedented unfriendly actions against Russia. The alteration of the commemorative day's name on September 3 is one of Russia's countermeasures against Japan.
Japan, located in East Asia, is not a member of NATO, but it has been consistently following the US and Western countries in intervening in the Russia-Ukraine conflict, even at the cost of strained relations with its neighboring country, Russia. The primary motivation behind Japan's actions stems from its long-standing development strategy of relying on strong powers.
In the past, when Europe was dominant and featured imperialist powers like Britain the "Empire on which the sun never sets" , France, and Germany, Japan aspired to leave Asia and enter Europe. This ambition led Japan from the Meiji Restoration to the First Sino-Japanese War (1894–1895 ) and later to its aggression during World War II. Today, when Japan perceives the US as the world's preeminent power, it sets aside all concerns and unquestioningly aligns with the US, becoming a loyal partner to the US.
Of course, Japan has also reaped the rewards from Western countries. For instance, Japan's recent issue of discharging nuclear-contaminated water into the sea faced condemnation from people around the world, but G7 countries remained silent, essentially giving their tacit approval. Japan has benefited from this situation and, with the support of Western countries, has become more assertive and confident. This is the current state of Japan.
During the celebration of the Day of Victory over Militaristic Japan and the End of World War II, Russian Federation Security Council Deputy Chairman Dmitry Medvedev made it very clear that the current Japanese authorities are blindly idolizing the US, following the US closely, and even imitating the US in imposing sanctions on other countries. He pointed out that today's Japan has conveniently forgotten about the hundreds of thousands of its compatriots who suffered tragic fates due to the atomic bombings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Japan seems to have overlooked the fact that it was its own aggression that led to these consequences in the first place.
Therefore, Russia's reminding holds significant importance for countries across the Asia-Pacific region. Firstly, it serves as a reminder to nations in the Asia-Pacific that Japanese authorities are currently pursuing an unwavering pro-American policy. Secondly, it is a global reminder to remain vigilant against the resurgence of Japanese militarism.
With the introduction of Japan's new security documents and the continuous growth of its defense budget, it can be anticipated that in the coming years, Japan's "exclusive defense" principle may undergo significant changes, potentially leading to a serious disruption of security and stability in the East Asian region.
Japan's robust increase in defense spending is driven by its aspiration to become a so-called "normal country" and to pursue a defense capability that matches its economic development. To achieve these objectives, its first step is to attain defense autonomy. However, due to historical reasons, Japan's defense is entirely under the control of the US. The presence of US military bases scattered across its territory and the US-Japan Security Treaty act as constant constraints on Japan. Consequently, Japan can only transition towards having a conventional army, navy, and air force by steadily increasing defense spending.
In this process, Japan continually seeks or creates opportunities, using the "Chinese military threat" as an excuse to increase its defense budget. This seemingly noble explanation serves as a very convenient justification. Simultaneously, there is an unspoken motive behind this, namely, Japan also aims to use this opportunity to mend relations with the US, gradually ease US restrictions on Japan, and ultimately achieve freedom from control.
Japan's defense budget has generally remained below US$50 billion annually in previous years. However, the newly determined budget request for the fiscal year 2024 exceeds 7 trillion yen, surpassing US$50 billion. This marks the first time Japan has crossed this threshold since the end of World War II. Meanwhile, the US has a defense budget of over US$800 billion. While there appears to be a significant gap between Japan and the US in terms of defense spending, it's important to note that Japan's Self-Defense Forces consist of only several hundred thousand personnel, while the US has nearly 2 million active-duty military personnel. When calculated on a per capita basis, the defense expenditure of Japan and the US is roughly on par. It is the US and Japan that has the highest per capita defense expenditure in the world. Despite the forces called the Self-Defense Forces, Japan's defense spending is no longer solely used for self-defense purposes.
Furthermore, there's a particularly noteworthy aspect to this, namely, in the 2024 fiscal year's defense budget, Japan has specifically stated its intention to develop the so-called "enemy base strike capabilities". In other words, it aims to develop a large-scale armed force that can strike the territories of its adversaries. Notably, attacking enemy bases means attacking the territories of other countries, something that is explicitly prohibited by Japan's Peace Constitution. Clearly, Japan is attempting to follow the path of launching aggressive warfare, like its actions during World War II.
Therefore, on the Day of Victory over Militaristic Japan and the End of World War II, Medvedev issued a warning to Japan, stating that Japan had completely forgotten the profound lessons of World War II and why the US dropped two atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Japan has forgotten, so Russia aims to remind it.
Editor's note: Originally published on military.cnr.cn, this article is translated from Chinese into English and edited by the China Military Online. The information and opinions in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of eng.chinamil.com.cn.