The defense budget request made by Japan’s Defense Ministry on Wednesday is the largest ever. If approved, it will continue the country’s soaring military spending over the past decade.
The proposed sum of 5.6 trillion yen ($40 billion) for the fiscal year of 2023, which ends in March 2024, will surpass the 5.4 trillion yen in planned spending for the current fiscal year. Japan’s defense budget for this year has already set a record for the 10th consecutive year.
Yet, both foreign and Japanese media reports show the proposed budget could rise to 6 trillion yen, or even to 6.5 trillion yen, up 20 percent from this year as Wednesday’s proposal does not include the costs of missiles for preemptive strikes that it recently proposed, as well as dozens of other weapons.
Japan used to cap its annual defense spending at around 1 percent of its GDP. But with the country pushing to comprehensively remilitarize, the calls for its military spending to be on a par with that required of NATO members have become increasingly loud, not only in Japan, but also in Washington, which is encouraging Japan to be in the vanguard of NATO’s expansion into the Asia-Pacific.
The military spending of NATO members is supposed to be 2 percent of their GDP, which if Japan was to follow suit would make its military budget the third-largest in the world. Needless to say, Tokyo needs an excuse to justify its constant military spending hikes to the public, and China fits the bill for the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.
In recent years, politicians in Tokyo have been increasingly citing China as the main reason behind its military spending hikes. This year, apart from hyping up the China threat theory as usual, the conflict in Ukraine has given a fillip to the scaremongering.
Japan’s growing military spending points to the rebound of Japanese militarism and the intention of right-wing Japanese politicians to make Japan’s militarily stronger again, which in the eyes of many people in Asia, is tantamount to reviving the ghost of Japan’s military past.
This is especially worrisome as Japan has never sincerely reflected upon its actions during the World War II era, including its war crimes. Instead, it has relentlessly sought to deny and distort history in recent years, including denying the country’s wartime atrocities and making modifications to its history textbooks.
Tokyo has also chosen to draw closer to the US alliance, enthusiastically rushing to the forefront in the US’ strategic containment against China and making waves over China’s core interests and mutual concerns. At home, Japan’s ultra-right politicians have seized every opportunity to push their country to steadily break the limit of its “pacifist” Constitution.
Hence, Japan’s latest move to boost its defense budget is not only irresponsible but dangerous as it will reduce its neighbors’ sense of security, heat up the arms race that is brewing in the region, casting a shadow over regional peace and stability.
Editorial, China Daily