Japan Must Double its Defense Spending to Ensure Peace

Seiji Fuji

Germany and other EU countries are also expanding their defense budgets

 The column “Analysis: Ukraine Crisis” appeared on page 7 of The Yomiuri Shimbun Morning Edition on May 6. This interview with Zack Cooper, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, was titled, “China is the Real Issue Facing Japan and the United States.” In it, Cooper says that Japan’s defense spending should be doubled:

The U.S. tends to see Russia as a threat due to its invasion of Ukraine, but China is actually the real issue. The Russian forces have lost a great deal of their fighting strength. The Russian economy has been weakened (by sanctions), and it will not be able to easily revive its military forces after this war. From a broad perspective, the U.S. will be able to focus on its relations with China over the long term.
The fact that the U.S. regards Japan as the most important region – and as its most significant ally – was demonstrated at the Japan-U.S. Defense Ministerial Meeting on May 4. In addition to leveraging this geographic superiority, the U.S. must also strengthen its policy ties with Japan.
Ukraine has taught us the necessity of peacetime preparations to enable swift responses to emergencies. For many years Japan and the U.S. have faced the issue of drafting a detailed plan to respond to crises, including Taiwan. Now is the time when this must be accomplished.
Another challenge for Japan and the U.S. is gaining new capabilities. The key to this is cruise missiles. A Chinese invasion of Taiwan would require a military operation to send numerous troops across the Taiwan Strait. Both Japan and the U.S. should possess powerful capabilities to sink fleets, which would deter such an invasion.
Moreover, Japan needs to enhance its own defensive abilities. A reasonable target would be to increase defense spending to an amount equivalent to 2% of the gross domestic product (GDP), which is currently being discussed.

 There is a global trend of countries increasing their defense spending. On April 25, Toyo Keizai Online posted an article by Keio University Faulty of Economics Professor Takero Doi, “Can Japan Increase its Defense Budget to 2% of the GDP?”

Japan’s initial defense-related budget for FY2022 was 5.3145 trillion yen, around 1% of the current GDP. The Liberal Democratic Party’s (LDP) Research Commission on Security is playing a central role in calling for the government to increase defense spending to 2% or more within the next five years.
What would it mean to expand the defense budget to 2% of the GDP? This is related to movements by North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) member countries, which are unified in aiding Ukraine.
NATO set a target for defense spending equal to 2% of the GDP in 2014, even before the invasion of Ukraine and the COVID-19 pandemic. At that time European Union (EU) nations that were NATO member countries had an average defense budget of 1.19%. This grew to 1.53% in 2019.
In addition, many NATO members are declaring that they will increase defense spending due to the invasion of Ukraine, a war taking place in Europe.
Germany (which is part of NATO) and Sweden (which is not) made particularly strong impressions. Germany is maintaining sound public finances with a budget stating that defense spending will equal 2% of the GDP starting in 2022. This increase to 2% is drastic, considering that its 2021 budget was just 1.49%.
Sweden, which is well known as a welfare state, declared that it will set a defense budget equivalent to 2% of its GDP.
Calculating Japan’s budget according to the NATO standard, FY2021 defense spending is approximately 6.9 trillion yen, roughly 1.24% of the GDP. The equivalent of 2% would be 11.2 trillion, meaning that Japan would have to increase its defense spending by 4.3 trillion yen.

 The article emphasizes that Japan should focus on healthy finances so it can take advantage of enemy weaknesses in the financial realm, rather than simply raising defense spending to 2% for a larger budget. Doi states, “It is important that defense spending be of high quality to ensure truly effective defense capabilities.”

The JSDF must shift from an exclusively defense-oriented policy

 If Japan did increase its defense budget to 2% of the GDP, how should it spend this money? Bunshun Online posted an article on March 19 entitled, “Former Chief of Staff Announces the End of the Japanese ‘Shield’ and American ‘Spear’ Era, Asks that Japan Rethink its Exclusively Defense-oriented Policy.” The author is Ryoichi Oriki, former chief of staff of the Japan Self-Defense Forces’ (JSDF) Joint Staff.

I would like to explain why we should rethink the exclusively defense-oriented policy. This policy was officially elucidated in 1970 in the first Defense of Japan whitepaper. It clearly stated that an exclusively defense-oriented policy would be the main idea of Japanese defense, and defined this as “the concept of abiding by the constitution with a focus on defending the nation.” At that time Japan was led by the Eisaku Sato Cabinet, and the international community was experiencing what is known as a “détente.” The biggest threat was the Soviet Union; China did not yet aspire to foreign expansion.
As defined, the exclusively defense-oriented policy does not include the concept of deterrence. Deterrence is the ability to make an enemy fear retribution for attacks, and is a vital part of defending a country’s territory. In the extreme sense, Japan has fully entrusted its deterrence to the U.S. The JSDF has been limited to considering minimum means to cope with attacks in a passive way, namely, to protect Japanese territory if it is attacked. We must recognize how that way of thinking was only acceptable in the Cold War era, when no one except the Soviet Union would try to challenge American military force.
The era has ended in which Japan and the U.S. can fully divide their roles by Japan functioning as a “shield” and the U.S. as a “spear.” Japan cannot make preemptive strikes because its national policy is exclusively defense oriented, but we must have our own deterrence rather than depending fully on the U.S. to give our enemies a sense that they should avoid attacking Japan due to the consequences that will result.
Counteroffensive abilities bring deterrence

The capability to strike enemy bases is drawing a great deal of attention in Japan today. Many news reports covered this topic when the Japan-U.S. Security Consultative Committee (Japan-U.S. “2+2”) released its Joint Statement in January 2022. However, I am concerned that our discussions seem to focus solely on the concept of attacks. The ability to strike enemy bases refers to the capability to directly destroy an enemy’s ballistic missile launch site or other base. I feel the word “attack” inspires a negative reaction among many people. There is also the risk that discussions can wander off topic while questioning what constitutes an enemy base. Rather than talking about the ability to strike enemy bases, we have employed the term “counterstrike capability.”

Consider the example of ballistic missiles. North Korea possesses 200 of these missiles and China has even more mobile launch pads. It is likely impossible to detect and destroy all of these missiles before they are fired, even with technology such as Japanese and American intelligence satellites.
“Attacking” is generally more effective than “protecting,” and it is also more efficient as well. To defend the country we must fully block any potential enemy attacks. When waging an attack, we can take the initiative and select from an abundant range of options. Of course, attacking is a more effective use of funds as well. Our proposal states that Japan should promptly formulate policy premised on having counteroffensive abilities as part of our deterrence. These abilities encompass a series of systems including missile and other equipment, intelligence gathering about our neighbors, discernment used to set objectives, actual weapon launching, and evaluating whether weapons hit their marks. More precise and powerful counteroffensive capabilities can be achieved through Japanese-American cooperation. For instance, the 2+2 Joint Statement from January refers to “continuing discussion on proliferated low earth orbit satellite constellation.” We could strengthen our monitoring system for missiles and other weapons by coordinating with the U.S. to launch multiple small satellites. From my experience as a gunner in the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force Field Artillery, if Japan was the target of a missile attack, the enemy’s units in charge of various systems (such as launch pads and radar equipment) would remain near the launch site for some time to dismantle the equipment. It would be difficult to destroy the missile right before it was fired, but we would have the chance to destroy systems before they are dismantled. “Counteroffensive” actually refers to targeting enemy attack systems, facilities related to command and control functions, and the like. It would not be permissible for Japan to retaliate against another country’s capital city or civilian population.
North Korea has an extremely high level of attack capability, including ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons. However, it is quite weak when it comes to national defense using radar systems or surface-to-air missiles (SAMs). It has the SA-5 (SAM with a range of 200 to 250 kilometers), a radar detection system (with a range of 400 kilometers) to quickly detect enemy aircraft, and a fire-control system that can aim missiles (range of 200 to 250 kilometers). However, some reports say this equipment is not operated to its full capacity due to significant deterioration and electric power supply issues.
Japan should improve its interception capabilities with a comprehensive air defense system to discourage North Korea from attacking. It should also work with the U.S. to boost our counteroffensive abilities. In other words, this would provide deterrence against North Korea. Defending our territory is not enough – our interactions should take the enemy’s weak points into account.

 I believe Japan must make a major shift from the exclusively defense-oriented policy. We should strengthen our military force with priority on deterrence to build a security structure that can truly safeguard our people.

We need more politicians who are well versed in military affairs

 Japan was able to keep its military budget at a relatively low level after World War II mainly due to the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty, and for a long time Japan left its attack and deterrence abilities up to the U.S. while focusing solely on “shielding” its own territory. But as Oriki says, times have changed and Japan can no longer protect itself in this way. Sovereign nations must be capable of independent self-defense. They should first fight on their own to defend themselves and receive support from allies when reinforcements are necessary. We cannot assume or count on the fact that the American forces would come to our assistance right away in the event of a crisis. Japan should significantly change the thinking of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty and exclusively defense-oriented policy, and should obtain military strength that provides deterrence by increasing our defense spending to 2% of the GDP. This would help deter war with the expanding China as well as North Korea, which is growing increasingly isolated.
 The Russian invasion of Ukraine has totally disproven the concept that peace comes just by wishing for it, or that peace is maintained by Article 9 of the constitution. War breaks out because people sense the other country is weak, and believe they are able to successfully carry out an invasion. In contrast, a balance of power leads to peace. More people should understand this and be in favor of Japan possessing the military strength it requires.
 Military power is also necessary for diplomacy. An ethical viewpoint is required to mediate military conflict, but this also necessitates a pragmatic ability to resolve problems against a backdrop of military strength. The Japanese media and academic world have long treated military affairs as a taboo topic, which is why there is so little understanding of these facts. However, scholars and other well-versed experts in military affairs have begun appearing in the media to provide commentary about Russia’s war in Ukraine, and there is an online program in which former JSDF generals explain the military aspects of the war. Citizens are gaining an accurate understanding of the importance of military intelligence, but it is problematic how few Japanese politicians can speak about military affairs. We should put a stop to this trend in which military affairs are excluded from universities and other places of learning. I hope young people who are educated in real world politics and history will become future leaders in Japanese government and national security.

May 18 (Wednesday), 7:00 p.m.