Japan's grand rearmament plan

(To Andrea Gaspardo)

On December 16th, with a statement that had actually been in the air for some time, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida (pictured below) announced that Japan would soon embark on a vast five-year rearmament plan worth a total of 320 billion of dollars.

In reality already during the month of November Kishida had instructed the government to prepare a plan to raise the percentage of GDP that the country of the Rising Sun allocates to the defense budget from the current 1% up to 2%, in line with the standards of most of the countries of the so-called “Western Bloc”. To paraphrase the words of the Japanese prime minister himself, in fact, with the full-scale invasion of Ukraine by Russia starting on February 24, 2022, a new precedent in international relations has been introduced and there is no guarantee that actions unilateral measures such as the Russian one cannot be undertaken by other players on the international scene as well.

It seems evident that the Japanese initiative is calibrated on the growing threat posed by the increasingly assertive policies of states such as China and North Korea, without forgetting that Japan actually has an open dispute even with Russia itself for the never recognized possession from Tokyo of the Southern Kuril Islands, better known in Japan as the "Northern Territories".

Interestingly, Japanese policy makers have specified that the national rearmament plan will be carried out in coordination with Washington. This declaration has two important consequences.

First: it signals that the goals of containment of the Chinese threat are shared by both sides of the Pacific.

Second: that Japan is to all intents and purposes a country incapable of expressing its own autonomous strategic vision and is totally flattened on the wishes of the USA.

Mind you; China and, to a lesser extent, North Korea represent a real threat to Japan and it is vital that Tokyo coordinates its moves on the Asian stage with Washington, which represents its main "guardian" in terms of geopolitical security. However, it is frankly incomprehensible that 77 years after the end of the Second World War, a country of over 125 million inhabitants and which holds the fourth largest GDP in terms of purchasing power parity on a global level is still unable to produce truly independent foreign policy choices .

What has just been written could make many people curl their eyelashes, but it is not silly at all given that according to American strategies, for containment against China to be successful it is necessary that South Korea and Japan form a common front. However, if seen from the Japanese side, Seoul represents in perspective a threat at least as much as Beijing and there are many territorial and geopolitical disputes that irremediably place Japan and South Korea (both capitalist countries and accomplished democracies) on opposite sides of the fence.

Finally, it is necessary to underline that, although the great Japanese five-year rearmament plan could represent an excellent driving force for expansion for both Japanese and international defense industries, it is equally true that the funds necessary for its implementation will be found by cutting the budget allocated to policies social at a historical moment in which the "oldest country in the world" needs them the most. In fact, for years Japan has been experiencing a phase of apparently unstoppable demographic decline which in the coming years risks turning into a real abyss. In 2010, with 128.070.000 inhabitants, the country of the rising sun reached its moment of maximum demographic expansion, but since then Japan has lost almost 3 million inhabitants (they were just over 125 million in 2021). Last year was also the year of the lowest fertility for Tokyo as 811.604 children were born, but at the same time 1.439.809 deaths were recorded, with a difference of -628.205, the highest in 122 years!

Thus, the Japanese government is called upon to make a titanic effort to implement the plans for strengthening the Defense, without forgetting, however, that the demographic-social challenge represents, in a medium-long term perspective, a equally important challenge for the stability of the last remaining mono-ethnic society in the world.

Photo: US Marine Corps / US Air Force