TOKYO Japan (Xinhua) --
Japan’s Abe administration marked its fifth year
in office in 2017. While the government is raising the defense
budget to a new record high and plans to further boost the
nation’s military strength by introducing more state-of-the-art
military equipment, local analysts expressed concerns that such
moves would contradict Japan’s war-renouncing Constitution and
further rattle the postwar order.
Minister Shinzo Abe’s cabinet approved last week a record-high
budget plan for fiscal 2018, with the defense budget hitting an
unprecedented 5.19 trillion yen (around 45.93 billion U.S.
dollars), up for the sixth straight year under the Abe
The budget is
expected to cover a shopping list of increasing numbers of
state-of-the-art military hardware for the nation, including
more F-35A fighters, V-22 Ospreys and the Standard Missile-3
Block 2A which has been co-developed by Japan and the United
Japan has also
decided to introduce two land-based “Aegis Ashore” missile
defense systems. Each system, developed by the U.S. Lockheed
Martin Corp., costs around 100 billion yen (885 million U.S.
dollars), defense ministry officials said.
Some 730 million yen
(6.46 million U.S. dollars) in the budget for fiscal 2018 will
be used to prepare for the introduction of the two systems, as
well as 62.2 billion yen (0.55 billion U.S. dollars) in a
supplementary budget for the current fiscal year.
government is also planning to acquire air-launched cruise
missiles with a range far longer than the current ones,
including Norway’s Joint Strike Missile with a range of about
500 km, and Lockheed Martin Corp.’s Joint Air-to-Surface
Standoff Missile and Long Range Anti-Ship Missile, both having a
roughly 900-km range.
What has been
causing further concerns is the government’s reported plan to
modify its flat-topped destroyer Izumo and turn it into an
aircraft carrier from which fighter jets can take off and land,
which would largely boost Japan’s striking ability.
Observers here have
pointed out that the huge budget as well as the increasing
number of most advanced weaponry far exceed the needs of a
country that is constitutionally bound to hold a purely
defensive military stance.
Constitution has banned the nation from maintaining land, sea,
and air forces, as well as other war potential, and Japan’s
defense white paper has specified that Japan should not own
offensive weapons such as intercontinental ballistic missile or
“attack aircraft carriers.”
“People should be
alarmed that Japan’s defense-only policy is in danger of being
completely abandoned under the Abe administration,” said
well-known Japanese military critic Tetsuo Maeda.
Experts here are
also concerned that Japan’s pacifist Constitution, which is key
to the nation’s peaceful development over the past seven
decades, is now at stake.
Following a dramatic
victory in a snap election in October, the ruling Liberal
Democratic Party is now pushing ahead with the prime minister’s
long-cherished desire to revise the Constitution, experts said.
Though Abe stressed
that there was no schedule for the plan, local analysts said
that the ruling party is expected to craft its amendment
proposals and present them during the ordinary Diet session to
be convened in January, 2018.
The plan has drawn
staunch criticism from opposition parties as well as from the
public for “opening the way for unlimited use of force.”
Some 40,000 people
gathered outside the parliament building in Tokyo on Nov. 3 to
protest against Abe’s attempts to amend the pacifist
Constitution on the occasion of the 71st anniversary
of the promulgation of the Constitution.
A recent Jiji press
survey showed that 70 percent of people were against revising
the Constitution in 2018.
But following the
general election in October, the LDP, its junior coalition
partner the Komeito party and other pro-constitutional reform
forces occupied two-thirds majorities in both chambers of the
Diet, and required to formally propose parliamentary debate on
amending the Constitution.
What could possibly
impede Abe’s plan would be an unfavorable result of a national
referendum needed to begin proceedings to legally change the
Experts pointed out
that as a referendums starts, there are no guarantees either
way, with uncertainties always a possibility, as was the case
with Britain’s shock vote to leave the European Union.
Prof. Liu Di of
Kyorin University in Tokyo, however, said that Abe has turned to
the flag of “making Japan a normal country” in an attempt to win
that he might succeed in this could not be ruled out. Abe
changing the pacifist Constitution is to challenge the postwar
order dominated by the U.S. In the long run, it might pave the
way for Japan to become a military power again,” said Liu.