Last week, Japan announced that it will increase defense spending by more than a quarter next year. Among the high-ticket items that will be added to the Japanese Self-Defense Forces will be U.S.-made Tomahawk cruise missiles.
It will mark Tokyo’s largest military build-up since the Second World War.
The 26.3% increase will see Japan’s defense budget reach a record 6.82 trillion yen ($51.7 billion) for the fiscal year beginning on April 1. It will also allow the Asian island nation to more than triple its spending on munitions as part of an effort to deter regional rivals – notably the People’s Republic of China and North Korea. It also comes in response to Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, which has spurred regional tensions.
The budget has been endorsed by Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s cabinet. The controversial plan would double Japan’s defense spending to 2% of its gross domestic product (GDP) by 2027, but critics have warned that it will add to the nation’s public debt, which already exceeds 2.5 times the size of its economy.
Tax the Rich to Pay for Defense
To fund the spending, Tokyo has opted to issue in fiscal 2023 just over 434 billion yen of construction bonds, which are usually used to finance infrastructure spending, but not military equipment.
“I believe those ships can be considered assets worth asking for the people to share costs,” Finance Minister Shunichi Suzuki told reporters on Friday when asked about the decision while adding the move should not be seen as abandoning fiscal restraints.
The increase in defense spending would make Japan – which had relinquished its right to “wage war” following its defeat in the Second World War – make it the world’s third-largest military spender after the United States and China, based on current levels.
It would surpass even Russia.
The unprecedented spending is largely seen as a reflection that Japan fears China could launch an invasion to take control of Taiwan and put a potential stranglehold on the sea lanes that supply Middle Eastern oil.
A 2019 defense white paper identified Beijing as Tokyo’s chief adversary – noting that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) was undergoing a rapid modernization that had the potential to pose a serious security threat.
To fund the military expansion, taxes will be raised on “wealthy people” – those with an annual income exceeding 3 billion yen. Yet, only 200 to 300 people across the country actually fall into that category, the Japan Times reported.
More F-35s and Tomahawks Could be Heading to Japan
As part of its new defensive stance, Tokyo is increasing its spending on drones, cyber warfare capabilities, ballistic missile defenses, reconnaissance and communications satellites, warships, and transport aircraft.
Japan had announced plans to buy an additional sixteen Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II stealth fighters – half of which will be the “B” variant, and able to conduct Short Vertical Take-Off and Landing (SVTOL) operations from the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force’s recently converted aircraft carriers.
Moreover, the most significant new announcement is that Japan will acquire upwards of 500 Tomahawk cruise missiles, which will provide Tokyo with “counterstrike capability.” The ordnance can strike targets from more than 1,000 miles away, putting parts of China and the Russian Far East within range.
Author Experience and Expertise: A Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,200 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, politics, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.