China’s rapidly growing military coupled with threats of missile attacks from North Korea are causing jitters in Tokyo.
Japan’s defence ministry is asking for an increase in its budget of more than 8%, its largest rise in decades.
The money would be used to build military capacity to respond to future threats, including in cyber, space and electromagnetic warfare.
Heigo Sato, vice-president of the Institute of World Studies at Tokyo’s Takushoku University, said the expanded budget is partly a response to the rising threat from North Korea.
He admitted that Japan is also under pressure from US President Donald Trump’s administration to shoulder more responsibility for its own protection, CNN reports. “The era of not increasing the budget is over,” Sato said.
Stephen Nagy, of the Department of Politics and International Studies at Tokyo’s International Christian University, said the expansion of Japan’s military budget would match rapid military growth by other regional powers including China, South Korea and Taiwan.
He cited the fact that every year, China builds more warships than the total number the UK has in its Royal Navy as evidence of how quickly China is racing ahead of potential rivals, not only in East Asia but around the world.
Nagy said that with the US economy damaged by the Covid-19 pandemic, there was likely to be more pressure for Japan to increase its defence spending and take a greater role in regional security in Asia.
Japan’s parliament still needs to approve the budget later this year. If approved, it will be the ninth consecutive annual increase in Japan’s military spending.