East Asia's security environment continues to be a cause for concern for Japan, what with the ever-acute threat of regional powers with great military latitudes, such as China, North Korea and Russia. At the same time, Tokyo has growing fears that Washington, whose power is in decline, will not come to Japan's defense in case of an attack. And then there are Japan's domestic problems, such as its diminishing, aging population, as well as concerns among some citizens that the country intends to shed the pacifist restraints imposed by Article 9 of its postwar constitution.
Against such a backdrop, Japan has launched a defense policy that, over the next five years, will enhance its security while maintaining its alliance with the United States. Ultimately, Japanese military leaders are banking that the plan will address its regional concerns while also allowing the country to assert its independence.
Rolling Out a New Five-Year Defense Policy
Japan's five-year defense policy, which was published in December and adopted four months later, calls for a unified command structure that incorporates not only traditional military branches (like the army, navy and air force) but also defense capabilities fit for 21st century warfare, such as space, cyber, electromagnetic and even artificial intelligence units that will operate under a unified command at peace and war. Ultimately, Tokyo is hedging its security bets on a high-tech military that will make up for an ever-shrinking domestic population.
The space warfare unit will fall under the purview of the air force, while the cyber unit will be under the command of the army — a branch that will also be responsible for two new anti-missile units. Each branch of Japan's military, meanwhile, will receive resources to prepare for and defend against electromagnetic warfare. With all the additions, Japan aims to counter the enhanced military capabilities of Russia and China, along with the ballistic missile threat from North Korea.
Japan is also purchasing 105 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, nine E-2D Advanced Hawkeye aircraft and two Aegis Ashore anti-missile systems, all from the United States. Furthermore, the country is preparing to convert its helicopter carrier into an aircraft carrier that can provide a launchpad for operations using the newly purchased F-35s. Together, these additions increase Japan's level of deterrence against attacks from the sea and air, or by missiles and even cyber-based weaponry.
But amid the push for new, high-tech capabilities, Japan is placing less emphasis on tanks and other forms of traditional weaponry that were salient during the Cold War, as evidenced by Tokyo's decision to maintain only compact land-based combat units in Kyushu and Hokkaido.
In the end, the outlay for Japan's new five-year defense budget is set to come in at an all-time high of $248 billion through fiscal 2023, up $25 billion from the previous five-year budget. (end of excerpt)
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