MELBOURNE, Australia — Japan has committed to acquiring long-range weapons and to continue increasing its defense budget as part of its latest National Security Strategy, citing regional threats as the driving force behind its decision.
The government released its National Security Strategy, National Defense Strategy and Defense Buildup Program on Friday, marking the first time all three documents were unveiled simultaneously.
The National Security Strategy noted that Japan’s need for counterstrike capabilities stems from the continued threat of ballistic missiles from China and North Korea, noting that in recent years “there have been dramatic advances in missile-related technologies, including hypersonic weapons.” It also said that “missile forces in the region have significantly improved in both qualitative and quantitative terms.”
The document added that while Japan will “continue its steadfast efforts to both qualitatively and quantitatively enhance its missile defense capabilities,” it will “become increasingly difficult to fully address missile threats with the existing missile defense network alone.”
As such, weapons that can hit enemy territory would “enable Japan to mount effective counterstrikes against [an] opponent to prevent further attacks,” the report continued.
This puts an end to the 1956 government policy that shelved capability to strike enemy targets and only recognized the idea as a constitutional last-ditch defense.
The National Defense Strategy said that acquiring a counterstrike capability was “key to deterring invasion against Japan,” citing that Ukraine’s insufficient defense capabilities meant it was unable to deter Russia from invading the country neighbor in February.
However, it stressed that no country can deal with myriad security threats alone, adding that “there is a renewed recognition of the importance of cooperation with allies who have the intention and capability to respond to invasion jointly in order to deter invasion from outside.”
The Defense Buildup Program projected Japan will increase its defense spending to about 2% of its gross domestic product, which would total about 43 trillion yen (U.S. $315 billion) through 2027. The new spending target will eventually push Japan’s annual budget to about 10 trillion yen, the world’s third largest after the United States and China. This would mark a 56% increase from Japan’s current five-year plan.
The increased defense spending will enable Japan to pursue various counterstrike capabilities. The country plans to purchase American-made Tomahawks and Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles. The country has also expressed a desire to increase the range of its Type 12 land-based anti-ship missile to 1,500 kilometers (932 miles).
Japan will also develop other types of arsenals, such as hypersonic weapons as well as unmanned and multirole vehicles for possible collaboration with the F-X next-generation fighter jet Japan is developing with Britain and Italy for deployment in 2035.
Japan, lacking sufficient cybersecurity and intelligence capability, will have to heavily rely on the United States in the areas of launching long-range cruise missiles at intended targets, experts say.
“Without cybersecurity, Self-Defense Force superiority or Japan-U.S. interoperatibility is difficult to achieve,” according to the five-year defense program, also adopted Friday, acknowledging the need to ensure cybersecurity within the military and the domestic defense industry.
This is a welcome development for the United States, as the Japanese government’s weak cybersecurity has been “a critical impediment to deeper alliance cooperation and expanded information-sharing,” according to Christopher Johnstone, senior adviser and Japan chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Japan now plans to spend 8 trillion yen over the next five years on cross-domain defense, including cybersecurity and space.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Mike Yeo is the Asia correspondent for Defense News.