Prime Minister of Japan Yoshihide Suga has announced a record Ministry of Defense budget. Starting April 01, 2021, the annual military budget will be 5.34 trillion yen (approx. $51.7 billion). This is the ninth consecutive year that Japan’s annual military budget has been raised by 1.1 percent. The proposed budget includes the development of longer anti-ship missiles and advanced stealth fighters to counter the threat posed by the Chinese military.
Some of the main budget allocations include:
- $912 million will be used to build two compact warships. These warships will be operational with as few sailors as possible. This will ease the Navy’s manpower concerns, which is finding it difficult to attract new recruits from Japan’s fast aging population.
- $760 million is set aside for a jet fighter project led by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. with the assistance of Lockheed Martin Corp. The fighter, which is Japan’s first in three decades, is expected to be ready in the 2030’s and will cost around $40 billion.
- $628 million will be spent on buying six Lockheed F-35 stealth fighters. This includes two vertical-landing (STOVL) B and two short-takeoff variants that will be operational from a converted helicopter carrier.
- $323 million will fund the development of a long-range anti-ship missile to defend the southwestern Okinawa islands.
Japan will also build two warships capable of carrying the brand new Aegis air and ballistic missile defense radars, which will have three times the range of the previous versions. These will be the biggest Aegis-equipped ships built by Japan, easily surpassing the Maya vessel that was commissioned by the government in March. These two ships will cost an estimated $4.8 billion.
Even though the Japanese government is swiftly building its military capability, some critics have accused Japan of deviating from its pacifist policy adopted post World War II. In June, the government was forced to suspend the deployment of the U.S. Aegis Ashore ballistic missile defense system due to a huge public outcry. Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato stated that the new weapons are not intended to attack foreign bases. They are to bolster the country’s defenses.
Additionally, Japan will be conducting a series of land and sea drills together with the United States and France in May next year. The exercises will be performed on uninhabited islands around Japan. The aim is to improve its capacity of providing relief during natural disasters. Some drills could also be applied to improving defense against an incoming attack. The joint exercise between the three nations is aimed at communist China.
“We want to demonstrate our presence to the region and send a message about Japan-France cooperation… This is a message aimed at China. This is a message about multilateral partnerships and the freedom of passage,” Admiral Pierre Vandier, chief of staff of the French Navy, said to the local Sankei newspaper.
Tokyo is also considering passing a law to limit land purchases by Chinese companies if they are located near military bases. In the past decade, 80 plots of land near Japanese military installations have been procured by companies from China or South Korea.