Japan's Self-Defense Force Builds Up Armed Strength
Japan, despite an officially pacifist constitution written when memories of its World War II rampage were still fresh — and painful — boasts a military that puts all but a few nations to shame.
Photo Insert: Japanese and US Forces post for a photo after a coordinated live firing exercise at the McGregor Range in the US aiming to further advance the tactical skills of air defense units of the two countries.
And, with a host of threats lurking in Northeast Asia, its hawkish leaders are eager for more, Mari Yamaguchi reported for the Associated Press (AP).
Japan has focused on its defensive capabilities and carefully avoids using the word “military” for its troops. But as it looks to defend its territorial and military interests against an assertive China, North Korea, and Russia, officials in Tokyo are pushing citizens to put aside widespread unease over a more robust role for the military and support increased defense spending.
As it is, tens of billions of dollars each year have built an arsenal of nearly 1,000 warplanes and dozens of destroyers and submarines. Japan’s forces rival those of Britain and France, and show no sign of slowing down in pursuit of the best equipment and weapons money can buy.
Not everyone agrees with this buildup. Critics, both Japan’s neighbors and at home, urge Tokyo to learn from its past and pull back from military expansion.
There’s also domestic wariness over nuclear weapons. Japan, the only nation to have atomic bombs dropped on it in war, possesses no nuclear deterrent, unlike other top global militaries, and relies on the so-called US nuclear umbrella.
Proponents of the new military muscle-flexing, however, say the expansion is well-timed and crucial to the Japanese alliance with Washington. China and Russia have stepped up military cooperation in recent years in an attempt to counter growing US-led regional partnerships.
In October, a fleet of five warships each from China and Russia circled Japan as they traveled through the Pacific to the East China Sea. Last month, their warplanes flew together near Japan’s airspace, causing Japanese fighter jets to scramble.
In the fiscal year 2020 through March, Japanese fighters scrambled more than 700 times — two-thirds against Chinese warplanes, with the remainder mostly against Russians — the Defense Ministry said.