To prepare for military provocations by China and North Korea, it is essential to steadily make progress on bolstering Japan’s defense capabilities.
The Defence Ministry has allocated ¥5.1685 trillion in a budgetary request for fiscal 2017, up 2.3 per cent from this fiscal year’s initial request. Against the backdrop of military buildups in both China and North Korea, seeking such a spending increase for the fifth straight year is reasonable.
Chinese military activity, including naval forays into the contiguous zone around the Senkaku Islands, has been surging.
Placing an emphasis on reinforcing Japan’s defence of remote islands thus appears rational.
The ministry intends to launch the development of a new surface-to-ship missile with a range of 300km, which will double the current system’s range.
It aims to put the new missile into practical use in fiscal 2023. If the missile is deployed to new Self-Defence Forces units, which are scheduled to be stationed on Miyakojima island and Ishigakijima island in Okinawa Prefecture, the new range would cover waters around the Senkaku Islands.
The ministry has also sought funds for upgrading its surface-to-air missile system with an eye on introducing it in fiscal 2021.
Both missile systems are expected to have a deterrent effect on China’s naval vessels and fighter jets. The systems would expand the range of Japan’s offensive capabilities.
However, their deployment falls within the nation’s purely defensive policy and thus would not pose problems.
Regarding its defence of remote islands, Japan intends to begin research on the development of amphibious assault vehicles while also purchasing such vehicles from the United States.
In spending for missile defense, the ministry has sought ¥14.7 billion to purchase Standard Missile-3 Block 2A next-generation intercepting missiles, which have been jointly developed by Japan and the United States.
It is the ministry’s first budget request of the type. With their production slated to begin in fiscal 2017, the missiles are expected to be gradually deployed on Aegis-equipped destroyers.
In early August, a Rodong ballistic missile fired by North Korea fell into the sea off Akita Prefecture. Concern has grown over Pyongyang’s technical progress in the development of missiles.
The SM-3 Block 2A model is significantly more capable than the existing SM-3 model in terms of its range and ability to identify a target, raising hopes of reinforcing Japan’s deterrent power.
The Japanese and U.S. governments launched their joint research on the missile in fiscal 1999 and began development in fiscal 2006. Reaching the stage of putting it into practical use is of great significance.
Other plans to bolster the nation’s defences, including building new submarines and Aegis destroyers capable of ballistic missile defence, and introducing Osprey transport aircraft, must proceed as scheduled.
Meanwhile, the ministry has included ¥11 billion in the budgetary request to expand “the system to promote technological research for national security,” which is designed to assist such research in the private sector. The request marked a substantial increase from the ¥600 million sought in this fiscal year.
Barriers to “dual use” technologies, which can be used for both military and civilian purposes, have been lowered globally. We hope advanced technologies in the private sector will contribute to bolstering national security.
In its budgetary request, the ministry has stressed it will place importance on “domestic production.”
If Japan depends excessively on foreign-made equipment, its defence industry and technological base could weaken, undermining its defence capabilities. However, the disadvantage of domestically produced equipment, which usually costs more, cannot be overlooked.
Achieving both goals — maintaining the technological base and keeping costs down — is vital.
The Yomiuri Shimbun is a member of The Straits Times media partner Asia News Network, an alliance of 21 newspapers.