Japanese Ministry of Defense requests highest-ever defence budget . . .
On August 31, the Japanese Ministry of Defense requested its largest-ever defence budget of 5.59 trillion yen (C$51 billion) for fiscal 2023. Although Japan’s defence spending has gradually increased over the last 11 years, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the threat of China, and improved Sino-Russian relations have escalated national security concerns and contributed to the re-evaluation of Japan’s defence strategy. In recent months, Prime Minister Kishida Fumio has reiterated the government’s commitment to protecting the “post-world-war order” by significantly upgrading the country’s defence capabilities by purchasing new military equipment and amending key defence policies.
Deteriorating Tokyo-Moscow relations . . .
Unlike former Prime Minister Abe Shinzo, who made efforts to improve relations with Russia, PM Kishida’s approach following the Ukraine invasion has largely shifted the focus of Japan’s foreign policy to Russia. Japan has been one of the few countries in the Asia Pacific to join Western countries in imposing sanctions against Russia. Moscow has criticized Japan for "joining the West's Russophobic policy," but PM Kishida has the backing of a large majority of his own population: 85 per cent of them support his response. On Monday, as a direct response to these “illegal sanctions,” Russia unilaterally cancelled the reciprocal visa-free exchange program for travel to the so-called Northern Territories (in Japan) / southern Kurils (in Russia) - the four islands to the northeast of Hokkaido that are administered by Russia and claimed by Japan.
Russia conducts military drills . . .
The Northern Territories / southern Kurils dispute has long prevented the two sides from signing a post-war peace treaty and normalizing bilateral relations. Russia held “Vostok 2022,” a weeklong multinational military exercise that ended yesterday, on the disputed territories claimed by Japan. Japan condemned the location and partnership with China on Vostok 2022, calling it “unacceptable.” Despite Japan’s post-Second World War Two pacifist values, the government will likely continue to increase its defence capabilities to bolster deterrence as regional threats increase. The ruling Liberal Democratic Party hopes to double Japan’s defence budget by 2027, which would propel Japan from ninth to third in rankings on global military spending.