This Week in Asia

Can Japan afford Suga's military spending promise to Biden?

In late December, the Japanese government approved a record defence budget amounting to 5.34 trillion yen (US$51.7 billion) for financial year 2021, which included the purchase of new stealth fighter jets, enhanced missile defence systems and more warships. 

Do you have questions about the biggest topics and trends from around the world? Get the answers with SCMP Knowledge, our new platform of curated content with explainers, FAQs, analyses and infographics brought to you by our award-winning team.

Analysts said this increase might already have been factored into Suga's promise of greater spending.

"On the other hand," he added, "There is growing support for greater defence outlays from a public that is increasingly worried about the assertiveness of China."

The official, who declined to be named, pointed out that Japan had announced the purchase or development of a number of advanced weapons systems in recent years. 

Tokyo has agreed to purchase 105 state-of-the-art F-35 joint strike fighters, including 42 of the F-35B variant, which is capable of vertical take-off and landing and is designed to operate from aircraft carriers. Each of the jets costs 13 billion yen and Japanese pilots are presently training on the first batch that have been delivered. 

Similarly, the Maritime Self-Defence Force's two Izumo-class helicopter destroyers are to be upgraded into aircraft carriers, each capable of carrying 12 F-34B fighters, while a new Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade, based on the US Marine Corps, was set up in 2018 and is headquartered in Sasebo, Nagasaki prefecture. 

And while Tokyo has taken the first steps in setting up units within the Defence Ministry in the emerging security areas of outer space and cyber warfare, the official said far more needed to be done in these areas to keep up with other nations.

And while advanced fighters and new warships always attract the headlines, Mulloy said Japan could do much to enhance its military capabilities by investing in other areas.

"They should look more closely at spending on ISR [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance], such as by purchasing the Global Hawk drone system, more advanced satellites and integrating this all with the US," he said. Another area that was "less dramatic but no less important," he said, was the creation of a unified, real-time data sharing platform across all branches of the military to ensure an integrated response. 

One of the most effective - and cost-effective - ways of enhancing Japan's military presence and commitment to the region, Mulloy said, would be through expanding its security alliances and courting additional potential allies. 

And while other countries have seen strong resistance to an increased military build-up - such as the at-times fierce South Korean backlash against the deployment of US-operated Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) weapons systems - there is a growing acceptance among the Japanese public and political parties that Japan needs to do more to ensure its armed forces are ready and equipped to deal with whatever military contingency may crop up. 

This article originally appeared on the South China Morning Post (SCMP).

Copyright (c) 2021. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

Altro da This Week in Asia

This Week in Asia4 min lettiMedical
Tokyo Olympics: Nine Japanese Governors Want Option To Scrap Games Amid Coronavirus Surge
The governors of nine Japanese prefectures believe the Tokyo Olympic Games should be postponed again or cancelled outright if the present surge in coronavirus cases cannot be brought under control. The Mainichi newspaper interviewed the governors of
This Week in Asia4 min lettiCrime & Violence
Wife Of Japan's Sex-crazed 'Don Juan' Dogged By Poisoning Evidence In Murder Case
A young Japanese woman being questioned on suspicion of killing her wealthy and elderly husband three years ago is declining to cooperate with investigators, although the evidence against her appears to be mounting. The entire case surrounding Saki S
This Week in Asia5 min lettiWorld
Leak Of Australian Commander's China Comments Fuels Further Talk Of War
An Australian military commander warned of the "high likelihood" of conflict with China in a confidential briefing last year, an Australian newspaper reported on Tuesday, with the timing of the leaked remarks adding fuel to growing discussion about t