The Japanese government has approved three updated documents on its security and defense policies, vowing to acquire the military power to actively attack its enemy and largely increase its military expenditure for the next five years.
Analysts said the release of the documents marks a fundamental shift in Japan's post-war security ideology and defense policy, in complete violation of its exclusively defense-oriented policy and pacifism embodied in the Constitution of Japan.
Japan, by retaking the path as a major military power amid further integration with U.S. forces, will pose new threats to regional peace and stability.
A cabinet meeting has updated the nation's key security documents, including the new National Security Strategy (NSS), or the top-level strategy document of Japan's national security, which was revised for the first time since it was issued in 2013.
The other two documents, the National Defense Strategy (NDS) and the Defense Buildup Program (DBP), are specific military-level policies and implementation plans formulated in accordance with the NSS, replacing the current National Defense Program Guidelines and Mid-Term Defense Buildup Program, respectively.
The documents will decide and shape Japan's security defense policy for the next five to ten years.
According to the main contents of the documents, Japan's security ideology and defense policy come to a critical turning point, especially by completely giving up its "exclusively defense-oriented" principle, which forms its core post-war defense concept.
In the new NSS, the Japanese government explicitly declared that it should have "counterstrike capability," or "enemy base strike capabilities," which mainly include various types of offensive long-range missiles and "Integrated Air and Missile Defense" systems that jointly operated with the U.S. military.
To achieve such a goal, Japan in the next five years will purchase and equip a large number of U.S. Tomahawk cruise missiles and domestically developed Type 12 surface-to-ship missiles with a range of more than 1,000 kilometers while developing high-speed gliders and hypersonic missiles.
The military alliance between Japan and the United States will also undergo new changes, with the previous mode of "Japan defends while the United States attack" transformed into "coordinated attack and defense."
Although when defining "counterstrike capability," words such as "necessary minimum" were used in the three documents, it is widely believed among the Japanese public that the acquisition of such capability will fundamentally subvert Japan's post-war security concept.
Atsushi Koketsu, former vice president of Yamaguchi University, warned that the three security documents represent a major shift in Japan's defense policy, giving up the concept of "exclusive defense" and deciding to implement a "preemptive attack strategy."
This will undoubtedly pose a major threat to East Asian countries as a type of "new militarism," said Kotetsu.
In line with the fundamental change in Japan's concept of defense, the revised documents broke many of the postwar taboos surrounding its military, including a further relaxation of the Three Principles on Defense Equipment Transfers, which was already relaxed during Shinzo Abe's administration, the expansion of the export of weapons, and measures to deepen the fusion of military and civilian resources.
To achieve the goal of military expansion, Japan's annual defense outlays are set to surge. The government intends to secure about $313 billion in defense spending for the five years from fiscal 2023, about 1.6 times the amount set in the current Mid-Term DBP.
The total defense spending in fiscal 2027 will be aimed to account for 2 percent of the country's gross domestic product. Prior to the policy adjustment, the standard was no more than 1 percent, the adherence to which is also generally regarded by the public as a key indicator to test whether Japan pursues pacifism.
To realize military transformation, the three documents also called for a comprehensive reorganization of the Self-Defense Forces' organizational structure, service restructuring, troop composition and military deployment, including setting up a new joint command to oversee the integrated operation of the Ground, Maritime, and Air Self-Defense Forces.
A new missile unit outside the defense zone will be established, the Air Self-Defense Force will be reorganized as the Air and Space Self-Defense Force to strengthen space defense, the air and maritime forces will set up new units responsible for drones, and an "Okinawa Defense Group" will be established to strengthen the deployment of military forces in the southwest.
It is worth noting that the documents also played up the "China threat" theory to justify the drastic shift of the security policy and its military expansion and war preparations. The National Security Strategy described China as "an unprecedented and largest strategic challenge."
Japanese military commentator Maeda Tetsuo told Xinhua in an interview that the three documents hyped up the "China threat" theory and substantially adjusted the defense policy, which was driven by both the United States and Japan's own intentions to remove restrictions on its military and become a so-called "normal military power."
Japan's return to the path of becoming a military power has caused grave concerns and wide opposition. Hundreds of locals held rallies in front of the prime minister's official residence in Tokyo on December 16, opposing the government's military expansion.
Makoto Koga, former secretary-general of Japan's Liberal Democratic Party, told the press that enemy base strike capabilities proposed in the documents "completely discarded the exclusively defense-oriented policy," and Japan should avoid taking the route of becoming a military power.
In an editorial, the Japanese newspaper Tokyo Shimbun wrote that Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution renounces war and bans the possession of military forces and other "war potential," under which Japan's post-war defense policy was formulated. Based on the reflection that Japan has brought great disaster to the people of the Asia-Pacific region, the Self-Defense Forces are only equipped for national defense and do not possess offensive weapons, which is also a pledge that Japan will no longer be a military power. The three documents will cause Japan to seriously deviate from the track of a postwar pacifist country.
The Mainichi Shimbun newspaper questioned in an editorial that against the backdrop of a sluggish economy, the Japanese people cannot understand the reason for the heavy burden brought by huge defense costs. Acquiring counterattack capabilities will not protect Japan. Japan should communicate with neighboring countries, commit to arm management and ease regional tensions through diplomacy.