Japanese Prime Minister pledges to strengthen national defense amid threats from China and North Korea
TOKYO – Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, during Saturday’s first military parade, renewed his pledge to consider “all options,” including gaining the ability to strike enemy bases and vowed to create a stronger Self-Defense Force to defend the country amid growing threats from China and North Korea.
Kishida said the security situation around Japan is changing rapidly and “reality is becoming more severe than ever”, with North Korea continuing to test-fire ballistic missiles while enhancing its capabilities. itself, and China pursues military buildup and increasingly assertive operations in the region.
“I will consider all options, including possessing the so-called ability to attack the enemy’s base, in pursuit of strengthening the defense is necessary,” Kishida said in a statement. in front of hundreds of Ground Self-Defense Force members in olive helmets and suits.
Kishida, who took office in October, served as commander in chief for the first time at Saturday’s Self-Defense Forces parade held at the main army base Camp Asaka, north of Tokyo. About 800 troops gathered for the inspection, according to the Defense Ministry.
“The security environment around Japan is changing rapidly at an unprecedented rate,” said Kishida. “Things that used to happen only in science fiction novels are now reality.”
He said his government would lead “calm and pragmatic” discussions to determine what is needed to protect people’s lives and gain their understanding.
The ability to possess a so-called enemy base attack capability has been a divisive issue as opponents say it violates Japan’s war-renunciation Constitution.
Kishida has shifted his moderate stance to a more hawkish stance, seemingly to please influential leaders in his ruling party, including former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and to bolster his power.
He now advocates increasing Japan’s military capabilities and spending.
On Friday, the Kishida Cabinet approved a request for 770 billion yen (US$6.8 billion) for an additional defense budget through March to expedite the purchase of missiles, anti-submarine missiles and other military equipment. other weapons amid growing concern about the escalation of Chinese and Russian military activities. and North Korea.
The request, still pending parliamentary approval, is a record for an additional defense budget and would take Japan’s military spending for the current year to a new high of more than 6.1 trillion yen (53 billion yen). $0.2 billion), up 15% from 5.31 trillion yen. in 2020.
The combined budget for 2021 will account for just over 1% of Japan’s GDP, keeping the usual limit.
Kishida said he is ready to double Japan’s military spending in response to the worsening security environment.
Critics also argue that Japan, the world’s fastest aging country with a shrinking population, should allocate more money to healthcare and other services.
Compared to previous parades, which included 4,000 troops, more than 200 vehicles and dozens of warplanes, Saturday’s event was significantly scaled back to minimize the impact on regular military operations. regularly, officials said.
There was no parade or public viewing, and only nine tanks and other vehicles participated in the online event.
Associated Press journalist Hiromi Tanoue contributed to this report.