Japan has consistently accelerated its arms procurement under the leadership of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. A Kyodo news report said that in 2016, Japan will finalise its national budget, including an increase in defence spending, to more than 5 trillion Yen — making it the 4th consecutive year to increase its defence budget. According to an Asahi Shimbun report, the increase in Japan’s defence spending and strengthening can understood as a response to China’s own military strengthening and a desire to intensify japan’s international cooperation efforts in an attempt to get the United States, India and Australia to form what is known as the anti-China quadrilateral (also known as the Security Diamond). According to Kyodo Agency report, this month Shinzo Abe ended a series of bilateral discussions with India and Australia during which he called for cooperation among the four countries to be “pointed at China’s maritime activities”. China Foreign Affairs University Professor, Zhou Yong Sheng, told the Global Times that while Japan wants all the big powers to cooperate (with it), these global powers are certainly not going to centre their policy for Japan’s sole benefit. Even though India and Australia, among other countries, may have reached some form of an agreement with Japan, there is no certainty at all that they will follow Japan.
Buy weapons to guard against China
What will be the major political highlights taking place in the first half of 2016? On the 22nd, Shinzo Abe will attend the Japanese Liberal party conference, where 3 items will be on the agenda: 1. The expedient approval of the 2016 budget; 2. Start preparations to host the G-7 summit; 3. Usher in the upper house elections in July.
Currently, important policy aspects of the budget are under discussion among the Cabinet Ministers who will ultimately finalise the contents of the entire document. The budget includes a provision for a 74 billion Yen increase in defence spending bringing the total (of defence spending) to 5.05 trillion Yen. According to Japan’s “China News”, this will be Japan’s highest military spending in its history and “reflects the importance Abe’s regime attaches to diplomacy and security”.
On 22 Decembe,r an analyst for Asahi Shimbun stated that since Abe’s coming to power in 2012, Japan’s defence spending has increased for four consecutive years — and now for the first time surpasses the 5 trillion mark. The principal rationale for the increase in defence spending is to enable purchase of weapons equipment that will enable Japan to guard against “China’s maritime activity”. The Asahi Shimbun report also included a list of specific items that Japan plans to purchase: RQ-4 drones which will be used in and around the Diaoyu islands; four “Osprey” combat transport vehicles to strengthen combat capabilities around Diaoyu Islands; a new model of airplanes called KC46A. Most of the new weapons will be purchased from the United States.
A recent Russia Today report says that Japan’s budget is surpassing the $41 billion mark, historically its highest level, principally due to antagonism with China’s maritime territorial demands. Tokyo plans to purchase American made planes and intensify its monitoring of the Diaoyu islands . In September this year, Japan passed a highly unpopular security bill upsetting the Japanese people who are not in favour of militarism and have protested against what they considered to be a “war bill”.
Some sections of Japanese are particularly opposed to the requirements of the Security bill whose impact spreads to the overall budget. Gu Xing, a Japanese military affairs journalist, explained in a blog post that Abe’s budget will only result in an overall increase in debt, leading subsequently to pensions being lowered, taxes being increased and ultimately to people consuming and spending less. Before these details of the budget were made public, the Abe government put in place a series of populist measures, such as a decision to give elderly people greater subsidies. Gu Xing described that as “a blatant populist move”. Since next year’s election is very important for Abe, the journalist suggests Abe should cut down on defence spending. He went on to say that Japan’s arms and weapons system is ‘in a mess’; furthermore, its military base is also far from adequate. Gu argued that fundamentally Japan is a paper tiger, sustaining conflict is not possible for it and seeking to advance that is untenable. Japan’s military strength will hardly be affected if the current desultory defence spending is reduced by 600 billion Yen.
In an interview with the Global Times, Japanese graduate research scholar, Wu Huaizhong, claimed that the current growth in Japan’s military budget is not the same as the high growth period during the last century. Right now, Japan’s economy is in a slump, and with a backdrop of rising tensions in the North-East, enhanced defence spending will result in increased concern amongst neighbours.
Japan wants to “win without a fight”
Japan’s increasing Defence expenditure, Abe’s increasing international lobbying and Japan’s strategic position are all linked to China. According to a December 21 Kyodo News report, Abe is paying attention the the U.S. policy of deterrence as the mainstay of its diplomatic offensive. He recently increased efforts to promote security cooperation among the four countries—Japan, US, Australia and India. According to a Japanese diplomatic source, during the December 12 Japan-India summit he cited the first initials of Japan, America and India to come up with the catch phrase, ”promote JAI cooperation”. Naturally, Abe would have known that “Jai” in Hindi means “victory”. Moving to the military specifics, Japan will now let its Maritime Self Defence Force participate regularly in the Malabar exercise, the joint naval exercise between the United States and India, activating a heightened level of trilateral defence exchanges among these three countries. With Australia, Japan will accelerate negotiations on a new agreement that will further streamline the joint training exercises between the two countries and further promote cooperation between Japan, Australia and the U.S.. The four countries—Japan, Australia, India and the United States—geographically make a diamond shape over the region that is directed at China’s maritime activities.
Japanese News wire Sankei Shimbun explained that Abe’s “Security Diamond” has begun to make tangible progress and security cooperation between Japan, Australia, India and US has entered a substantive stage. The report goes on to say that the “Security Diamond” was first proposed by Abe at the end of December, 2012, when he accused China of strengthening its military presence in the South China Sea, claiming that the ”South China Sea has become a Beijing lake”. Therefore Japan is promoting the “Security Diamond” to guard the region from the India Ocean to the Western Pacific Ocean”.
An article in Japan’s Modern business magazine claims that the encirclement is now complete, and “China besieged from all sides” — a view which might explain Japan’s excitement of late. Sankei Shimbun also recently published an article with the heading, “Prime Minister Abe’s long-term strategy is ‘win without a fight’”. It claims that Abe has participated in many international conferences and talks, as a result he has gradually formed a net to encircle china. The report also says that the Government of Japan Self-Defence Forces is strengthening the defence system in the southwest region and the worst situation is through combat “????,????????????,??????????”At the time the most effective tool to suppress China is international pressure. Therefore, it is important for Japan to place China in the international arena for it to be condemned.
China cannot ignore
“This so-called Diamond-shaped encirclement is not just a concept or an idea, the Japanese are trying to turn it into reality.” Francis Lui, the Japanese Studies scholar at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences Institute believes that China cannot ignore these signs. China must enhance national strength, especially its defence capabilities, so that it can cope with the changing situation in Asia-Pacific.
Abe is facing enormous resistance in the country on promoting his security law. Due to next year’s election, the Japanese government has decided to postpone the collective self-defence exercise schedule. Internationally, Japan’s attitude will become a concern. Thailand’s national newspaper said that United States and Japan are working together to carry out a strategic deterrence game in Asia. With the rise of Chinese power in the region, the number of countries looking for opportunities to cooperate with Tokyo is increasing. It is too early to say whether U.S.-Japan can really serve as a deterrent but it will lead to the militarization of the region and will turn the Asia-Pacific region into a “security dilemma.”
Zhou Yongsheng believes that the Japan’s encirclement policy is because Japan has intentions to confront China but does not possess the confidence to go it alone. In reality Japan does not have enough strength or appeal, making it very difficult to encircle China. But by attempting to do so it will undoubtedly impact China. Ultimately, it will torment both countries and will exaggerate the “China threat theory”. It will have a negative impact on China’s international image. Moreover, in the East China Sea region it is a very real deployment