Japan’s defense budget will soar to a whopping 6.8 trillion yen ($55 billion) next year as the country prepares to deploy U.S.-made Tomahawks and other long-range cruise missiles that can hit targets in China or North Korea under a more offensive security strategy.
The planned purchase of Tomahawks at 211.3 billion yen ($1.6 billion) is a centerpiece of Japan’s 2023 budget plan approved on Friday, December 23, 2022 by Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s Cabinet.
Also, the planned purchase depicts government’s determination to rapidly arm itself with more strike capability under the new strategy.
Defense officials disclosed that Japan will pay the United States 110 billion yen ($830 million) for equipment and software required to launch Tomahawks, as well as fees for the technology transfer and staff training in the coming year.
The weighty budget plan, pending parliamentary approval, is the first installment of a five-year, 43-trillion-yen ($325-billion) military spending plan under the new defense buildup plan also announced last week.
The new spending target follows the NATO standard and will eventually push Japan’s annual budget to about 10 trillion yen ($73 billion), the world’s third biggest after the United States and China.
The budget plan comes a week after Kishida’s government announced Japan’s new National Security Strategy, stating its determination to possess controversial “counterstrike capability” to avert enemy attacks and nearly double its spending within the next five years to protect itself from growing risks from China, North Korea and Russia and escalating fear of a Taiwan emergency.
Tomahawks will be deployed over two years from 2026 to 2027 on advanced Aegis radar-equipped destroyers with vertical launch systems for ship-to-surface attacks, defense officials noted.
Japan will also buy more foreign-developed standoff missiles for launch from warplanes; a 500-kilometer- (310-mile-) range Joint Strike Missile from Norway for F-35A fighters, and Lockheed Martin’s Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile with a range of about 900 kilometers (560 miles), for upgraded F-15s.
Japan will spend 94 billion yen ($710 million) next year to work on upgrading and mass production of Type-12 land-to-ship guided missiles developed by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries for deployment within the next few years.
To reinforce strike capability and range, Japan is adding eight more F-35Bs at 143.5 billion yen ($1.08 billion) capable of short takeoffs and vertical landing on either of the two formerly helicopter carriers Izumo and Kaga that are being retrofitted so they could be operated jointly with the U.S. military.
Over the next five years, Japan will spend about 5 trillion yen ($37 billion) on standoff, or long-range missiles, with deployment beginning in four years. Annual spending for 2023 on long-range ammunition alone will be tripled from this year to 828 billion yen ($6.26 billion).
Counterstrike Capability Is Indispensable And Constitutional
Japan defends that counterstrike capability is indispensable and constitutional if it is in response to signs of an imminent enemy attack.
However, experts say it is extremely cumbersome to conduct such an attack without risking blame for striking first. Opponents say strike capability goes beyond self-defense under Japan’s pacifist post-WWII constitution, which limits use of force strictly to defending itself.
That principle was eased in 2015 by then-Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s constitutional reinterpretation allowing Japan to defend its ally, the United States, in what is known as collective self-defense, providing a legal basis for Japan to build up its military and expand the roles it performs.
Japan in using strike-back capability needs to fully rely on the United States to detect early signs of attacks and determine targets because of a lack of high levels of intelligence and cybersecurity.
To address the concern, Japan will spend about 100 billion yen ($7.6 million) next year also to reinforce cybersecurity to protect Japanese defense technology and industry.