Be wary of Japan going further away from its pacifist constitution

China Military Online
Huang Panyue
2024-04-03 09:54:29

By Liu Yi and Liu Yang

Recently, the Japanese House of Representatives passed the defense budget of 7.9 trillion yen(USD 52 billion) for the new fiscal year. This amount represents a 16.5 percent increase from last year, reaching a new historical high. The continuous rise in defense budget provides assurance for the updating of weapons and equipment by the Japan Self-Defense Forces (JSDF), adjusting combat readiness deployments, and strengthening the military alliance between Japan and the US.

As a key ally of the US in East Asia, Japan has actively worked with Washington's so-called "Indo-Pacific Strategy." Japan has maintained consistency with US policies in politics, diplomacy, and economics and taken various measures in the military domain to accelerate integration into the US military operational system.

Japan accelerates the pace of equipment updates to enhance interoperability with US military equipment. In recent years, the JSDF has been vigorously promoting equipment updates, aiming to reduce problems encountered during joint operations with the US military and improve joint operational efficiency. In 2022, the US Air Force withdrew F-15C/D fighter jets from the Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan, and planned to deploy more advanced fighter jets on a rotational basis. In line with US military standards, the JSDF plans to introduce more US equipment. In the defense budget for the new fiscal year, Japan intends to procure anti-ship missiles carried by F-35 fighter jets, joint air-to-surface standoff missiles, and Tomahawk long-range cruise missiles for Aegis ships. In addition, Japan and the US plan to jointly develop unmanned aircraft to enhance the effectiveness of air combat through coordinated operations with manned aircraft.

Japan strengthens military deployments in the southwest direction in response to US military operational concepts. In the view of the Japanese side, the US military's planned Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations (EABO) is a convergence of the respective military strategic interests of the both sides, and Japan can provide relevant support for the implementation of EABO by the US military in the southwest direction. The preparations made by the US military for EABO can also strengthen defense in the southwest direction of Japan. In recent years, Japan has been shifting its defense focus from the northeast to the southwest. In terms of military deployment, Japan has concentrated its defense forces, island defense forces, and surface-to-ship missile units on southwestern islands such as Okinawa, Miyako, Ishigaki, and Yaeyama, thereby enhancing its control capabilities over relevant islands and surrounding waters. In terms of reconnaissance and surveillance, Japan utilizes the geographical advantages of the southwestern islands to strengthen intelligence collection in surrounding airspace and waters. In 2022, the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF) deployed a coastal surveillance unit of about 700 personnel at a base on Yonaguni Island to collect relevant information on aircraft and vessels passing through. In terms of base construction, Japan has begun to build an air force base on Mageshima Island to increase the number of airports and strengthen the depth of defense.

Japan increases the scale and frequency of joint training with the US military to strengthen the so-called "deterrence" of the Japan-US alliance. It is reported that Japan and the US are seeking significant adjustments and upgrades to the US-Japan Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security and plan to reorganize the US Forces Japan command. Besides, according to the Guidelines for Japan-US Defense Cooperation, the two countries have initiated an alliance coordination mechanism to continuously expand the scope of integrated joint operations between the JSDF and the US military. In recent years, the scale and frequency of Japan-US joint exercises have increased simultaneously. While expanding the exercise area, they have paid more attention to the synergy between their operational concepts and breakthroughs in exercise projects. Statistics show that the number of joint training sessions between Japan and the US has increased fourfold in the past 10 years. The JGSDF and the US Marine Corps conducted Iron Fist joint island seizure training in Kyushu and Okinawa from February to March this year. Compared with previous years, the content of this year's joint training continued to increase, and the area expanded to the islands southwest of Japan.

Japan's perverse actions such as developing offensive military strength, continuing to significantly increase the defense budget, and actively tying itself onto the US "chariot" will only make Japan go further and further away from its pacifist constitution. In addition to exacerbating its own security dilemma and development difficulties, it will seriously threaten regional peace and stability. In this regard, regional countries must remain highly vigilant.

(The authors are from the PLA Academy of Military Sciences.)

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