Japan Releases Annual Defence White Paper

Japan’s security environment . . .

Last Friday, Japan’s Ministry of Defense released its annual Defense White Paper detailing Japan’s current security environment and the efforts it will need to mount to address various challenges. The main issues the report highlights include the intensifying strategic competition between the U.S. and China; tensions in the Taiwan Strait, the East China Sea, and the South China Sea; Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the Kremlin’s increasing collaboration with China; and, North Korea’s intensified provocations.

Three pillars of national defence . . .

The white paper identifies three pillars of Japan’s national defence. First and foremost, the plan indicates that Japan will boost its defence capability (notably in intelligence gathering), its ability to deploy its Self-Defense Forces, and its capacity to prevent interference in space, cyberspace, and electromagnetic domains. Second, Japan will continue strengthening its alliance with the U.S. through increasing operational co-operation and policy co-ordination in various areas, including space and cyberspace. Third, Japan will keep promoting bilateral and multilateral co-operation and exchanges with like-minded allies under a Free and Open Indo-Pacific.

Will Japan boost defence spending?

This year’s white paper arrives as Japan is expected to significantly boost its defence spending. Despite an already sizable defence budget (C$55.3B in 2022), Japan has a low ratio of expenditure to gross domestic product, hovering at about one per cent. In the coming weeks, the government is expected to abandon its one per cent cap on defence spending, allowing the ruling Liberal Democratic Party to raise spending to two per cent over five years. A national security review that will define guidelines for Japan’s foreign and security policies is also expected to be released before the end of the year. Despite Japan’s long-standing domestic debate about defence spending, the conditions now seem in place for a significant change in the country’s defence posture.