Biden backs Japan’s plan to create world’s third strongest army

US President Joe Biden calls Japan’s history an “extraordinary moment” for defense reform. Visiting Washington, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida seeks support for the largest Japanese military reinforcement since WWII.

“At the moment, both Japan and the United States are facing the biggest challenge in our history of defense cooperation,” Kishida said at the meeting.

The prime minister refers to what Japan sees as a threat from three sides: China in the south, Russia in the north, and North Korea in the west. Last month, the national parliament approved a major change in defense strategy. “We need to massively increase our budget to improve our counterattack capability,” Kishida said. This indicates that Japan is ready to make itself militarily resilient.

Doubling the defense budget

This is Kishida’s first visit to Washington since becoming Prime Minister. The visit aims to symbolize the strengthening of military and economic cooperation between the two countries.

Japan has one of the ten largest armies in the world. By doubling the defense budget from 1 percent to 2 percent of gross domestic product, it wants to move up to third place in five years. This year alone, the country will spend more than 50 billion euros.

Japanese troops have not fired a bullet in a conflict since World War II, and the country needs the support of the United States to achieve this military scale. Biden reassures him during the meeting, describing the collaboration as “strong as iron.” “The United States is fully behind Japan’s defense,” he continued.

Biggest Threat

The development is, among other things, a reaction to China’s military activities around Taiwan. Four out of five Japanese see China as the biggest threat to regional stability. They fear that if things escalate, Japan will be drawn into a war. For this reason, Kishida sees cooperation with the United States as necessary for national security.

The intensification of Japan’s military efforts also brings advantages for the United States. The country is strategically important, forms a buffer with China, and is only a hundred kilometers from Taiwan in the extreme south. Tens of thousands of American soldiers have been stationed in Okinawa state for years.

Japan is on the verge of purchasing military equipment from the United States, including long-range missiles with a range of 1,000 miles that could hit mainland China. The country is also building a defensive wall with military facilities to deter China, including a missile base on Ishigaki, a small island just 300 kilometers from Taiwan.

Economic cooperation is also high on the agenda. Kishida wants to comply with US semiconductor export controls and is denying China access to sensitive technology used in weapons and industry.

popularity collapsed

While the population strongly supports military expansion, the majority opposes the involvement of Japanese troops in international conflicts. Additionally, Kishida’s popularity plummeted after a series of scandals that led to the resignation of several cabinet members.

That’s why the meeting between Kishida and Biden is also seen as an attempt to gain support and appease critical voices within the Prime Minister-led Liberal Democratic Party.

This is another reason why Kishida emphasizes the historical significance of the meeting. “Increased cooperation between our countries is becoming more and more important for the protection of democracy and the rule of law.”

Source: NOS