Japan is planning a massive boost in military spending that will increase its defense budget by 56% over the next five years to $318 billion.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida ordered his ministers to raise the spending levels on Monday in the latest sign that Japan is moving away from being a pacifist country as outlined by its post-World War II constitution.
Kishida made the order about a week after he announced he wanted to bring military spending to about 2% of Japan’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 2027, the same level NATO wants all of its members to reach. Japan’s military spending has typically been around 1% of its GDP or less.
The US has been encouraging Japan to increase military spending as part of Washington’s strategy against China. According to Kyodo News, President Biden told Kishida in a phone call in October 2021, when the Japanese leader first came into office, that the US expects Japan to hike military spending.
The US has also been encouraging Japan to increase military cooperation with regional countries. Earlier this year, Japan signed a deal with Australia that will allow Australian and Japanese troops to deploy together, the first deal of its kind for Tokyo since the end of World War II. US and Australian officials said this week that they will invite Japan to take part in more military exercises.
Kishida said last year that he wants to explore the option of giving Japan the ability to strike other countries, which would require amending the country’s constitution. Under the post-World War II constitution, Japan is only allowed to have a military for self-defense.