Japan's Urgent Defense Upgrade

Todd Moses
April 18, 2024

U.S. President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida vowed a "new era" of cooperation, laying out a series of projects, from missile co-development to manned moon landings, with an eye on aggressive actions by BRICS nations.

Inputs that matter: DefenseNews reports, "The two countries will improve their respective command-and-control systems, form an industrial council to build weapons together, network their missile defense systems with Australia's, and start a joint exercise with the United Kingdom."

  • Toshi Yoshihara, a China expert at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, explains, "No one has done more to get Japan to modernize and get serious about defense than China itself."
  • Defense officials from Australia, the United Kingdom, and the U.S. said that Japan and other countries might later join part of the AUKUS defense pact, an agreement to share nuclear-powered submarines and other defense technology.

The opportunity: NPR reports, "Japan has long been one of America's closest allies, and the Biden administration has sought to strengthen the relationship further as part of its push to counter China."

  • Japan is being offered U.S. defense contracts to manufacture military equipment as part of the deal.
  • According to CBS, "Details of the enhanced military partnership will be worked out by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and his Japanese counterpart in the next several months."
  • Japan hopes to join the Five Eyes intelligence network, which includes the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the U.K.
  • For Japan, the agreement represents added protection from China.

Zoom in: After Japan surrendered to Allied forces at the end of World War II, the U.S. occupation drafted a constitution that limited military engagements.

  • Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution prohibits the country from establishing a military or solving international conflicts through violence.
  • Despite talking about removing Article 9 since 2000, it still stands.
  • Kyodo News reports that the country plans to upgrade 11 ports and five airports for defense use.

Between the lines: The U.S. and China are the world's two largest economies and the lead participants in competing groups of BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, and the U.A.E.) and G7 (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the U.K., the U.S., and unofficially the E.U.).

  • The concern for the G7 is China's growing military and the threat it poses to Taiwan, just over 100 km (62 miles) from Japanese territory, including the region's strengthened alliances between China, Russia, and North Korea.
  • Russia's invasion of Ukraine and the fallout from the war in Gaza are also shared concerns.

Follow the money: Grace Park, the director for Japan policy at the Defense Department's Indo-Pacific Security Affairs Office, explains, "We've got Russia's aggression against Ukraine, we've got the Red Sea and, of course, the aggressive course of behavior of the [Chinese] in the East China Sea, the South China Sea, as well as the Taiwan Strait."

  • Park details, "In thinking through these networked security environments, … they're all interconnected. There's not very much an artificial line between economic and military coercion."

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Read More

  1. https://banananomics.co/japan_enters_the_soft_war
  2. https://www.defense.gov/News/News-Stories/Article/Article/3656771/japan-takes-leadership-roles-protecting-global-security/
  3. https://english.kyodonews.net/news/2024/03/c085935cd6cc-japan-eyes-upgrade-of-16-airports-ports-for-possible-defense-use.html
  4. https://www.defensenews.com/pentagon/2024/04/10/us-japan-announce-generational-upgrade-to-alliance-amid-china-threat/
  5. https://www.reuters.com/world/what-us-japan-defense-shakeup-will-involve-why-2024-04-05/
  6. https://www.voanews.com/a/china-eyes-us-japan-security-upgrade-plan-/7548312.html
  7. https://www.defense.gov/News/News-Stories/Article/Article/3656771/japan-takes-leadership-roles-protecting-global-security/