Japan released a new military strategy on Friday that labeled China as an unprecedented “challenge” and outlined a major overhaul of Japan’s military that marks the biggest shift away from Tokyo’s post-World War II policy of pacifism.
The strategy includes policies recently announced by Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, including the goal of increasing Japan’s military spending to over 2% of the country’s GDP by 2027, a plan that would more than double Tokyo’s defense budget.
Based on Japan’s current GDP, the plan would make Japan’s defense spending about $80 billion per year, the third highest military budget in the world. Since the end of World War II, Japan’s official policy has been that its military is only for self-defense, but that is changing as Tokyo seeks to acquire long-range missiles.
According to The Wall Street Journal, Japan has earmarked $3.7 billion over the next five years for missile systems, including US-made Tomahawk missiles, which have a range of over 1,000 miles. Acquiring such weapons will put mainland China and North Korea well within the Japanese military’s reach.
The US has been encouraging Japan to build up its military as part of Washington’s strategy against China in the Asia Pacific. The Japanese strategy document describes China as “the biggest strategic challenge, unlike anything we have seen before,” reflecting language from US military documents.
The Pentagon released its National Defense Strategy in October, which names China as the “most comprehensive and serious challenge to US national security strategy.” Key to the US strategy of countering China is increasing cooperation and building up alliances with US partners in the region.
China on Friday criticized the Japanese security plan. “Japan’s new defense policy ignores facts, deviates from its commitment to China-Japan relations and the common understandings between the two countries, and groundlessly discredits China’s defense building and normal military activities. China resolutely opposes this,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said on Friday.