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Thursday, May 23, 2024

From pacifism to antagonism

Being a member of the QUAD, Japan’s military build-up will complement the US military deployed in the Indo-Pacific. In short, Japanese plans are a victory for the US-led world order, as they adversely affect Chinese ambitions in the Indo-pacific.

Japan suffered a devastating defeat at the hands of the US in World War II culminating in the two nuclear bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki on the 6th and 9th of August 1945. Unable to sustain the resulting losses, Japan surrendered and was now at the mercy of the victorious United States. The annihilating bombing of the Japanese cities brought the great imperial power of Japan to its knees and effectively led to the end of the World War. What followed was a victor’s peace. The United States occupied the island country to restructure its government on a democratic model.

Resultantly, the Japanese empire was dissolved and Japan’s Imperial Army was replaced with the Japan Self-Defense Forces. Furthermore, a pacifist constitution was imposed upon Japan to prevent it from resolving any international dispute with the use force, hence effectively limiting its military to a defensive role. Japan’s defense spending was also capped at one percent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

For the last seven decades, Japan remained a pacifist country under the shadow of the United States. However, certain contemporary developments have forced it to rethink its defense strategy. These developments include growing Chinese assertiveness in the East China Sea, growing aggressiveness of North Korea, and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. As a response to these threats, the Japanese government, on 16th December 2022, announced the biggest military buildup plan since the end of World War 2, abandoning seven decades of pacifism.

Read more: US defense chief meets Japanese counterpart at Pentagon

As per the plan, it will increase its military spending to two percent of its GDP over the next five years. This increase will make it the third biggest military spender after the United States and China. Moreover, Japan also plans to acquire land and sea-launch long-range missiles capable of striking up to 1000 kilometers away. The plans also include procurement of up to 500 US-made Tomahawk missiles and the deployment of more than 1,000 long-range cruise missiles able to strike North Korea and coastal areas of China.

Japan also revised its National Security Strategy for the first time in almost a decade to identify Beijing as a regional security threat. The revised document also removes the statement that Japan seeks a “mutually beneficial strategic partnership” with China. China responded to the revisions by urging Japan to “act upon the political consensus that the two countries are cooperative partners and do not pose a threat to each other.” Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin also said that “hyping up the ‘China threat’ to find an excuse for its military buildup is doomed to fail.”

According to some analysts, the military buildup plans violate Article 9 of the constitution of Japan, which forbids the country from the use of force to settle international disputes while limiting its military to a defensive role. On the other hand, proponents of Japan’s plans cite the growing aggressiveness of North Korea and China and argue that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has made it clear that defense could not be entrusted upon the international system.

While the people of Japan traditionally remain skeptical about amendments in the constitution, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and growing threat of China’s invasion of Taiwan has led to growing public support for a stronger military in Japan. Though one concern for them is over the possible increase in taxes to finance the doubling of the defense budget.

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The United States, which had originally drawn the pacifist constitution for Japan, welcomed Japan’s military buildup plans saying that free and open Indo-Pacific is now an achievable reality. The plan is being hailed by the US as it serves its interest in containing China. The
The United States has been expanding its military footprint in the Indo-Pacific direct and indirectly.

Indirectly in the form of new alliances such as QUAD and AUKUS. Being a member of the QUAD, Japan’s military build-up will complement the US military deployed in the Indo-Pacific. In short, Japanese plans are a victory for the US-led world order, as they adversely affect Chinese ambitions in the Indo-pacific.

Read more: Quad decides its future policy

On the other hand, North Korea, China, and Russia have condemned the military build plans of Japan. North Korea has even threatened of a response saying that Tokyo’s plans to bolster its defense sector are “wrong and dangerous”. Japan’s military build-up plans are set to alter the security dynamics in the Indo-Pacific, the only question is whether it will stabilize the region or destabilize it.