Japan Must 'Beef Up' Defense Budget, Analysts Say
As China and North Korea continue provocations throughout the Asia-Pacific region, Japan will seek to tie itself “more firmly” to like-minded nations such as the United States and Australia, said one analyst speaking at a Jan. 8 panel at the Heritage Foundation, a Washington-based think tank. Meanwhile, the U.S. military is turning its gaze away from the Middle East and toward the Pacific.
“The geostrategic reality in Japan is such that Japan has to respond to the aggression that the Chinese are now implementing each and every day towards Japan, like it or not,” said Tomohiko Taniguchi, a professor at the Graduate School of System Design and Management at Keio University in Tokyo.
During the December 2012 elections, the conservative-leaning Liberal Democratic Party took over the Japanese Diet, its bicameral legislature. With the appointment of Shinz? Abe as prime minister, the government needs to act, Taniguchi said.
“Now may be the last time, the last opportunity, for Japan to beef up its defense capabilities,” Taniguchi said. “It has to do that.”
The entire Pacific community’s outlook on security has changed because of China, said Bruce Klingner, senior research fellow for the Asian Studies Center at the Heritage Foundation.
“Beijing’s growing assertiveness, most notably in the Senkaku [Islands] … really has altered the Pacific security landscape,” said Klingner. “But ironically, by China letting slip the façade of a peaceful rising, it has united Asian nations against Beijing and led to more strident calls for a stronger, more integrated role for the United States.”
The Senkaku Islands are a disputed archipelago in the East China Sea that both China and Japan claim to have sovereignty over. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta during a September trip to Beijing told officials there that the islands were covered under the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty, according to the Asahi Shimbun.
More Japanese citizens are favoring leaders who take a tough stand against China than has historically been the case, Klingner said.
“China’s continued … aggression, as well as North Korea’s provocations, threats and attacks have really reshaped the Japanese political landscape. … It has led to a rise in Japanese nationalism,” said Klingner. “[But] this nationalism is … a shift from the very far left, extreme pacifism more towards the center, more towards a normal nation status.”
While Klingner described Japan’s nationalism as “normal,” he said China over the last few years has expressed “violent” nationalism. The United States must encourage Japan to step up and take over the defense of nearby nations threatened by China, Klingner added.
“Washington has long pressed Japan to assume a larger security role for its own defense as well as security responsibilities overseas commensurate with its size and military strength,” Klingner said. “[Japan] cannot rely solely on others to defend its overseas interest. Tokyo does have interests overseas and Japan does need to step up to the plate to defend those.”
It is paramount that the Diet increase military spending to satisfy the security requirements needed, he said.
Photo Credit: Army