Japan’s Prime Minister travels the world cementing alliances with G7 countries, discomfiting China
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida seems to have the full support of America, Britain, and Italy to develop advanced defense systems by Duncan Bartlett - for The China Project - 19.01.23.
Japanese generals may soon be able to launch a barrage of rockets aimed at targets across China, including Beijing.
The Tokyo government has requested the acquisition of about 500 Tomahawk cruise missiles from the United States at a cost of around $2 billion.
The missiles could either be fired from the ground or from submarines, and have a range of up to 2,500 kilometers (1,500 miles). The missiles are manufactured by Raytheon Technologies, an aerospace and defense company based in Tucson, Arizona, and a large military contractor that gets a significant portion of its revenue from the U.S. government.
The company’s website says that they either carry a 1,000-pound conventional warhead or a package of 166 cluster bombs. (The United States has a stockpile of around 4,000 Tomahawk missiles according to the Wall Street Journal, although that number seems to be based on a 2020 report from The National Interest).
The U.S. has also sold them to Britain for use by Royal Navy submarines.
The Biden administration strongly supports Japan’s military build-up
All signs indicate that the sale of the weapons to Japan — a staunch ally of the United States — would be politically straightforward, so far as Washington is concerned.
During a brief on-camera meeting with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida at the White House on January 13, President Joe Biden waved his finger at his guest and stated: “Let me be crystal clear: The United States is fully, thoroughly, completely committed to the alliance. And, more importantly, to Japan’s defense.”
Biden praised the Japanese cabinet for approving a record-breaking defense budget, which totals 6.82 trillion yen ($51.4 billion) for the fiscal year beginning in April. It means that Japan’s military spending will nearly double, marking one of the largest military buildups since the end of World War II.
Of particular note to Japan’s rivals — especially China — was a recent pledge made by Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada that Japan might launch a counteroffensive before being hit by missiles or other weapons, if it found that an adversary was planning an attack.
Japan and the U.S. claim say they need to maintain balance of power in the Indo-Pacific
The Pentagon estimates that China has more than 1,000 ballistic missiles and about 300 ground-based cruise missiles capable of hitting Japan. If Taiwan were to be attacked, analysts suggest China’s weapons could be used against American and Japanese forces, including U.S. military bases in Japan.
In a speech on January 13 at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies, Kishida described China as “the most central challenge for both Japan and the U.S.”
The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs has expressed its strong opposition to the strengthening of Japan’s firepower, saying that the buildup flies in the face of the pacifist principles which were enshrined in Japan’s constitution at the end of the World War II.
Foreign ministry spokesman Wāng Wénbīn 汪文斌 denounced the statements coming out of Washington as “full of groundless smears against China.”
“While claiming to promote regional peace and stability, the U.S. and Japan are in fact finding a pretext for their military buildup,” Wang told the regular news briefing in Beijing on January 13.
The next day, the Global Times, a nationalist tabloid controlled by the Party’s house newspaper, the People’s Daily, published an editorial accusing Japan of creating “a crazy vicious circle.”
“If you treat China as a ‘threat,’ you actually become a ‘threat’ to China, and in turn China will really become a ‘threat’ to you,” said the paper. It went on to emphasize that China’s military strength is much greater than that of Japan.
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Duncan Bartlett is a Research Associate at the SOAS China Institute where he presents the weekly podcast, China In Context.
Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is greeted by U.S. President Joe Biden as he arrives at the White House on January 13, 2023. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst