TOKYO (AP) — In a bid to address the escalating threats from North Korea and China, the highest-ranking U.S. military officer commends Japan’s commitment to doubling its defense spending over the next five years. Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, emphasizes the significance of Japan’s controversial push for a stronger military.
Strengthening Defense Capabilities
To effectively counter North Korea’s nuclear missile program, capable of targeting the U.S. mainland, and China’s growing aggression towards Taiwan, Tokyo needs to prioritize improvements in the following areas:
- Cruise missile defense
- Early warning missile systems
- Air capabilities
These enhancements not only benefit Japan but also support the United States in its efforts.
The Ambitions of China
Gen. Milley highlights China’s substantial investments in its military, asserting their desire to become the regional hegemon within Asia in the next decade or so. As China’s influence expands, the security situation in the region becomes increasingly unstable and dangerous.
The Deterrent Power of Japan
In light of these concerning developments, Gen. Milley advocates for a powerful and militarily capable Japan with a close alliance to the United States and other countries. Such a partnership will play a significant role in deterring the outbreak of war.
U.S. Allies Urged to Take Action
The intense security situation in northeast Asia necessitates action from U.S. allies, particularly Tokyo and Seoul. With over 80,000 U.S. troops stationed in Japan and South Korea, and with North Korea and China demonstrating heightened military activities, the prospect of war looms large. Thus, Washington urges its allies to proactively enhance their defense capabilities.
Also Read: Australia plans major defense upgrade amid rising threat from China (April 2023)
Japan’s Growing Military
Japan has long struggled with the issue of maintaining a strong military due to concerns about appearing overly aggressive. The country’s invasion of several parts of Asia leading up to World War II has left a lasting resentment among neighboring nations. However, Japan is now taking steps to enhance its defense capabilities.
General Milley recently commented on North Korea’s most recent missile test-launch, expressing concern that it demonstrates the country’s intention to develop the ability to strike the continental United States. While not revealing specific details about North Korea’s missile program, Milley affirmed that the situation has the attention of the United States.
To address these growing security concerns, Japan has allocated a record 6.8 trillion yen (approximately $50 billion) for defense spending in the coming fiscal year. This represents a 20% increase from the previous year. A significant portion of this budget, 211.3 billion yen ($1.55 billion), will be used to acquire U.S.-made long-range Tomahawk cruise missiles capable of hitting targets up to 1,600 kilometers (1,000 miles) away when launched from warships.
This substantial defense budget is part of a larger five-year plan, totaling 43 trillion yen (around $315 billion), outlined in Japan’s new National Security Strategy unveiled in December. The aim is to align Japan’s defense spending with NATO standards and eventually raise the annual budget to approximately 10 trillion yen ($73 billion). This would make Japan’s defense budget the world’s third largest, after the United States and China.
General Milley expressed confidence in the Japanese military’s ability to rapidly expand in scale, size, scope, and skill if needed. He also emphasized the importance of hastening U.S. military support to Taiwan. Taiwan requires improvements in air defense, mines, and air-to-air and shore-to-ship capabilities to effectively deter any potential aggression from China.
Although Japan and the United States are opposed to using military force to enforce unification, the ability of Taiwan to defend itself is crucial. General Milley stressed the need for countries, including the United States, to accelerate their assistance in enhancing Taiwan’s defensive capabilities.