US-Chinese Antagonism: Is Japanese Deterrence Alone Enough?

The antagonism between the U.S. and China grows increasingly vehement, and tensions in East Asia are deepening. What course of action should Japan take? The Japanese House of Representatives election is a good opportunity to examine the foundational stance of each party.

Regarding public commitments on diplomacy and national security, all the parties generally share a sense of wariness toward China. The reason for the caution is that in the past 10 years, China’s national defense budget has swelled by about two to three times, which cannot be overlooked.

Recently, China has become an increasing military threat toward Taiwan, emphasizing its focus on unification, which has prompted fears from related nations about a possible crisis in Taiwan. Furthermore, since September, North Korea has continued developing new models of missiles; instability in East Asia has certainly been mounting.

Given these circumstances, many voices inside and outside of Japan are calling for Japan to strengthen its defense capabilities.

Defense costs have been limited to 1% of the national gross domestic product, but Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party has publicly committed to increasing that amount to 2%. The party is also mindful of the target defense budget rates of other NATO member countries.

However, we can say that the numbers for this increase in defense spending have been determined without doing a detailed estimation of the necessary equipment, and the heavy-handed approach of taking advantage of citizens’ uneasiness is plain to see. The country’s budget deficit is significant, so this spending must also be balanced with social security and other expenses. The Komeito Party, a member of the ruling coalition, seems justified in its criticism that the plan has not gained “the people’s understanding.”

Another point to consider is the pros and cons of possessing capabilities to attack enemy bases, which calls into question the plan’s consistency with Japan’s national policy of nonaggressive defense. The core of the LDP’s pledge is to “maintain the ability to obstruct ballistic missiles within enemy territory.”

Considering North Korea’s and China’s advancements in missile technology, along with the Japan Self-Defense Force’s current equipment, realizing these goals would be quite difficult, and would also possibly require a vast increase in cost. The Komeito Party and the opposition parties are pessimistic, calling the plan “unrealistic.”

The administrations of both Prime Ministers Shinzo Abe and Yoshihide Suga prioritized a strengthened alliance with the U.S., purchasing large amounts of defensive equipment from the U.S. with an inclination toward strengthening deterrence ability. The assumption is that henceforth, the U.S. will want Japan to incur even more costs.

We hope that the defense budget will be used efficiently, with an aim toward improving necessary deterrence ability, while at the same time, not launching an arms race with nearby nations.

Opposition parties, such as the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, that insist on a “commitment to nonaggressive defense” based on the U.S.-Japan alliance ought to also address the public’s anxiety about the threat of China and discuss more concrete measures.

As the debate on deterrence ability continues, we also hope to discuss a diplomatic call to ease tensions. It is difficult to say that an election campaign debate is the right time for such a discussion. In particular, we must seek a diplomacy that cultivates trust through repeated dialogue with closely neighboring countries. Leadership discussions with neighboring nations have not progressed.

How can we break free from this stagnation? Many citizens are waiting to see a positive, constructive message from the government.

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About Dorothy Phoenix 57 Articles
Dorothy is an independent video game developer, software engineer, technical writer, and tutor, with experience teaching students how to program and make games. In addition to programming and video games, Dorothy also enjoys studying Japanese language and culture. One of her goals is to exhibit a game at the Tokyo Game Show someday.

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