Japan enacts sweeping changes to defence policy

Japan said on Friday it would begin a once-unthinkable US$320 billion (S$438.18 billion) military build-up. PHOTO: AFP

TOKYO – Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s Cabinet signed off on the country’s most radical overhaul of its defence policy since World War II on Friday, citing regional threats. Here are some key changes:

Counterstrike capability

Japan will acquire so-called “counterstrike capabilities” that will enable its Self-Defence Forces to strike enemy bases. This will be permissible under these conditions:

  1. An attack on Japan or its like-minded partners that poses a threat to Japan’s own survival.
  2. There are no other appropriate means to repel an imminent attack.
  3. The use of force can be kept to a minimum.

Japan intends to develop its own arsenal of hypersonic missiles and buy as many as 500 US-made Tomahawk cruise missiles with a range of over 1,250km.

Defence spending

Japan will ramp up military spending to 43 trillion yen (S$425.6 billion) for the next five years, making it the third-largest spender after the United States and China on current budgets.

This will bring the defence budget to 2 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP), eclipsing the self-imposed spending limit of 1 per cent of GDP that has been in place since 1976.

Military restructuring

Japan will establish its first joint command centre to better coordinate its ground, maritime and air self-defence forces under contingency situations.

In recognition of “grey-zone” tactics that involve non-military activities, Japan will also expand its cyber defence unit to about 4,000 personnel – more than four times the current size – to stave off cyber attacks, and launch a new unit to deal with “information warfare”.

The coast guard will likewise be strengthened to cope with territorial incursions around Japan’s waters.

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