Defense budget must strengthen deterrence amid worsening security

The security environment surrounding Japan is deteriorating at an unprecedented speed. The nation must contemplate this reality and improve its defense capabilities in an efficient manner.

The fiscal 2022 budget plan earmarked a record-high ¥5.4005 trillion in defense spending, marking the 10th consecutive year of increase.

Given China’s military expansion and hegemonic behavior, as well as North Korea’s development of new missiles, it is essential to steadily strengthen defense capabilities even amid a tough fiscal situation.

In particular, China has more fighter jets and missiles than the U.S. military forces in the Western Pacific, and is rapidly gaining strength in terms of quality, including the development and deployment of hypersonic weapons that are difficult to intercept with current missile defenses.

Many experts have stressed that the deterrence provided by the U.S. military has become weaker than ever before, while the danger of China launching military provocations is growing.

Japan must strengthen the Self-Defense Forces’ response ability and demonstrate to China that it will not allow the status quo to be changed by force.

The proposed budget will strengthen Japan’s capabilities in the sea and air, including the acquisition of eight F-35A state-of-the-art stealth fighter jets.

Japan also plans to increase its investment in cutting-edge technology, and is said to be accelerating the development of a next-generation fighter jet that will replace its F-2s. Additionally, it plans to hasten research into ways to deal with unmanned aircraft and hypersonic weapons.

China and other countries are aggressively introducing cutting-edge technologies into their equipment. This could completely change the nature of combat. Japan needs to deal with this from a medium- to long-term perspective.

The Defense Ministry plans to improve the capability of long-range cruise missiles capable of attacking from outside the enemy’s range, so they can be launched not only from the ground but also from fighter jets and vessels. This is being done with the defense of Japan’s outlying islands in mind.

To improve deterrence, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has expressed his intention to consider possessing the capability to attack enemy bases in order to destroy missile launch sites and other targets. It is important to revise the National Security Strategy to clarify the necessity of this capability for self-defense and its significance in terms of defense policy.

This should then be reflected in specific equipment through the National Defense Program Guidelines and the Medium Term Defense Program.

In the supplementary budget for the current fiscal year, the ministry has earmarked funds for some of its equipment ahead of schedule. Combined with the fiscal 2022 budget plan, defense spending totals ¥6.1744 trillion, or nearly 1.1% of the gross domestic product.

Enhancing defense capabilities is an urgent issue, but shouldn’t major equipment be acquired in the initial budget? It is important to carefully explain the plan to the public and gain their understanding, so as not to give the impression that the plan is being pursued without debate or explanation.

— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on Dec. 30, 2021.