Japan's move sparks concerns in region

2023-12-28 08:27:37China Daily Editor : Li Yan ECNS App Download

Approval of hefty military spending and security aid threatens stability: Experts

Japan's approval of hefty increases in the defense spending bill and the official security assistance budget for the upcoming fiscal year is a departure from its postwar military and diplomatic policies, threatening the safety and stability of the Asia-Pacific region, experts said.

Japanese Foreign Minister Yoko Kamikawa said on Tuesday the country will increase the security aid budget to like-minded countries through official security assistance, or OSA, for the fiscal year 2024 to 5 billion yen ($35.03 million), which is 2.5 times the amount in the current fiscal year.

Kazuyuki Hamada, international political economy scholar and Japan's former parliamentary vice-minister for foreign affairs, said the immediate targets for OSA are the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam and Indonesia.

"Under the guise of OSA, if military transfers and joint exercises accelerate, there is a risk of unforeseen conflicts and escalation, leading to increased tension and potential conflicts in the Asia-Pacific region," Hamada said.

Ukeru Magosaki, co-representative of the Association for Inheriting and Propagating the Murayama Statement, said such assistance is fundamentally aligned with the United States' security policy.

"Japan believes that in its relationship with China, avoiding the possibility of military conflict and enhancing cooperation in economic relations align with Japan's national interests," Magosaki said. "However, the foreign minister said the increased OSA budget will be offered to like-minded countries with shared aspirations, such as diplomatic and other goals. Her statement seems to go against these principles."

On Friday, Japan's Cabinet approved a record 7.95 trillion yen military budget for the upcoming fiscal year, increasing by more than 16 percent. Additionally, the Cabinet relaxed the postwar ban on lethal weapons exports, reflecting a notable shift in Japan's defense policy.

These decisions align with Japan's ongoing efforts to expedite the deployment of long-range cruise missiles capable of reaching targets in China or the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, The Associated Press reported.

"The envisioned large increase in the defense budget as quickly as possible is a departure from Japan's postwar diplomatic policy. This deviation threatens the safety and stability of the Asia-Pacific region and would require explanations to both the domestic population and neighboring countries," Kumiko Haba, professor emeritus at Aoyama Gakuin University in Tokyo, said.

Earlier this month, Japan strengthened military ties with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations at the Commemorative Summit for the 50th Year of ASEAN-Japan Friendship and Cooperation.

Heightened tensions

"This implies collaboration with the U.S.' strategy of encircling China rather than contributing to the common development of Asia, resulting in heightened tensions in the surrounding region," Haba said.

Currently, Japan is planning to export Patriot Advanced Capability-3, or PAC-3, missiles manufactured in Japan to the U.S.

Until now, Japan has refrained from sending military equipment that can be used directly in warfare outside the country. This was because, under Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution and the Three Principles on Transfer of Defense Equipment and Technology, weapon exports were restricted to components of equipment, and finished products were deemed unacceptable.

Japan's easing of curbs on weapon exports clearly violates Article 9 of the Constitution and Prime Minister Fumio Kishida's administration is engaging in this act of indirectly exporting missiles to countries involved in wars, ignoring both the Constitution and the Diet, the national legislature of Japan, she said.

"Engaging in defense buildup, especially with the intention of military conflict with China, the most important neighboring country for Japan historically, economically and geopolitically, would undermine Japan's national interests. If Japan gets caught up in the unilateral information warfare of the 'China threat' that the U.S. defense industry is provoking, it could lead to unexpected consequences," Hamada said.

He emphasized that Japan should "chart its own course in dealing with China and the Asia-Pacific, rather than blindly following the U.S.", and work toward improving relations and mutual trust.

"Surviving as a single country is not possible in the present or the near future. Understanding each other's differences and building a win-win relationship is crucial," he said.

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