Japan Looking to Expand Missile Defense & Military Spending
In the wake of seven recent missile tests by North Korea, including what is now seen as the possible failure within 2 km of launch for the longest-range Taepodong-2 missile, Japan’s self-defense forces and the defense committee of the governing LDP party are proposing an expanded defense budget that includes a higher priority on and higher spending for missile defense.
Meanwhile, a February 2006 Armed Forces Journal article offers an interesting take on Japanese defense cooperation and procurement trends more generally. Other recent articles put the issue of Japanese defense spending into a larger context within that nation’s shifting security environment.
Missile Defense Gaining Momentum
Japan already has a strategic agreement with the USA to develop and deploy missile defense systems.
The FY 2007-2008 budget plan reportedly requests a 1.5% rise in overall spending, including YEN 219 billion (about $1.88 billion) for missile defenses, up 56.5% from the current YEN 140 billion appropriation for FY 2006-2007 (that year’s budget request had been YEN 150 billion).
These funds reportedly include appropriations for an SM-3 long range naval SAM/ABM missile test from a Japanese Kongo Class destroyer, as well as funds to accelerate Japan’s own fielding of Patriot PAC-3 SAMs/point defense ABMs to 2007 by buying US-made systems on top of the PAC-3s expected from licensed Japanese production by 2008-2009. 3-4 Patriot PAC-3 surface-to-air missile batteries are also due to be installed and operated by US forces at Kadena Air Base in Okinawa later in 2006.
A Larger Tapestry?
The proposed changes in Japan’s missile defense budget are certainly a response to local dangers, but Japan’s approach may also be reflective of a number of larger tectonic shifts in its security and defense procurement postures.
The LDP’s apparent successor-in-waiting Shinzo Abe is reportedly a strong supporter of a more assertive posture of deterrence and involvement in multinational security operations. Events are certainly providing this position with additional support. As columnist George Will wrote in the Washington Post:
“In the first three months of this year Japan scrambled fighter jets 107 times in response to what were assumed to be Chinese spy planes provocatively close to Japan’s air space. A Chinese submarine has made an incursion into Japan’s territorial waters, and the two nations are disputing whose waters cover disputed oil and gas reserves in the East China Sea.”
As energy security issues rise around the world, and especially in Asia, these kinds of pressures are worthy of close attention when evaluating future defense policies and directions. There is certainly growing pressure within Japan to modify its constitution (which prohibits it from having a declared military), and also to raise the 1% of GDP limit that has governed Japanese defense spending for decades.
Japan’s approach to military procurement may also be shifting. For instance, cooperation with foreign countries in defense R&D and a greater willingness to make outright buys abroad are both somewhat unusual behaviors.
This new willingness may reflect emergency priorities, but it may also reflect some of the trends noted in MIT professor Richard J. Samuels’ February 2006 Armed Forces Journal article “Give & Take,” which covered potential shifts in the Japanese military-industrial base and procurement trends. Consolidation is coming to the Japanese defense industry long after it has made its presence felt elsewhere around the globe, but it is coming; meanwhile, foreign cooperation on key projects and even a willingness to buy abroad appear to be on the rise.
This matters to Japan’s security posture in a number of ways. In its coverage of Japan’s defense budgets over the last decade or so, for instance, GlobalSecurity.org notes:
“According to some estimates, the unit costs of [proprietary] Japanese vehicles are three to ten times as expensive as those of the US vehicles. Similar price gaps exist between Japan and England, France, Germany and other European nations. It is believed that Russian equipment cost 30% less than equivalent US equipment. Given such huge discrepancies, Japan’s defense spending in reality is at about the same level with those of South Korea and Taiwan.”
All this while Japan is facing an array of somewhat unusual pressures, and the USA’s future naval dominance in and around Japan’s energy lifelines in Asia’s littoral regions is coming into question.
Given the lead times for defense projects and budgets, the budgetary and procurement decisions made in Japan over the next 5 years may significantly affect the future makeup – and opportunity size – of the Pacific Rim defense market.
- Japan Defense Agency – includes a number of documents re: Japanese security and defense policy. Note that for cultural reasons, more “reading between the lines” is required when perusing such document as opposed to American military publications’ more straightforward approach.
- Haze Grey – World Navies Today: Japan
- STRATFOR (Sept 1/06) – Japan: In a Unique Position for Ballistic Missile Defense
- Council on Foreign Relations (April 13/06) – Japan Also Rises. Good outline of the broader issues, with quite a few links.