UPDATES WITH STATEMENT ON DEFENSE SPENDING; CHANGES HEADLINE, DECK; OTHER CHANGES THROUGHOUT
By Riyaz ul Khaliq
ISTANBUL (AA) – Amid the changing geopolitical situation in the Asia-Pacific region, Japan is mulling boosting the number of its defense units over the next decade, with an accompanying rise in spending, according to a draft plan reported by local media.
“Japan is considering almost tripling the number of units in its Self-Defense Forces equipped with ballistic missile interception capabilities in the country's remote southwestern islands by the end of fiscal 2031,” Tokyo-based Kyodo News reported on Monday.
Six of the seven units being upgraded will be based in the southern province of Okinawa and one will be deployed on Amami-Oshima Island in the southwestern Kagoshima province.
A total of 14 surface-to-air units across Japan will get the capability to intercept missiles, the draft plan said.
Tokyo may also update its National Defense Program Guidelines, a 10-year defense buildup policy, which is set to be updated by the end of the year.
“Japan plans to increase the number of SDF (Self-Defense Forces) ballistic missile defense units in the Nansei Islands, an island chain stretching southwest from Kyushu toward Taiwan, up to 11 from the current four by the fiscal year that ends in March 2032,” said the report.
Meanwhile, the government led by Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is expected to raise Japan’s defense spending up to 43 trillion yen ($318 billion) from fiscal 2023 to fiscal 2027.
That would be an over 50% increase from its current five-year spending plan, several Cabinet ministers said Monday.
This development comes as friction between the US, its allies, and China has seen an uptick recently in the region as Washington leads the Quad – a loose security alliance that also includes Japan, Australia, and India – in the wider region to contain Beijing’s expanding military and economic influence.
Beijing has pushed back the efforts, criticizing any effort to isolate the world’s most-populous country and the second-biggest economy.
Tensions with North Korea also intensified as Pyongyang last month fired dozens of missiles.
Japan’s efforts to boost defense are also seen as challenging, as the country is known for its pacifist post-World War II Constitution.
However, in the current circumstances, Kyodo reported: “Japan is likely to include the controversial idea of acquiring the counterstrike capability in the National Security Strategy, which would allow Japan to fire upon and disable enemy missiles before they are launched from foreign territory.”
Tokyo is focused on “boosting its defense capabilities in southwest Japan, a strategically important area in light of the Chinese military's muscle-flexing in the East China Sea.”
Japan currently hosts several US military bases with around 50,000 American soldiers under a bilateral security deal.