The new Liberal Democratic Party government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will revise the country’s long-term basic defense program compiled by the Democratic Party of Japan amid China’s military rise.
Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said Thursday that Abe told him to revise the plan and bolster the role of the Self-Defense Forces and Japan’s deterrence capabilities, in conjunction with the new national defense strategy unveiled by Washington, Tokyo’s long-time security ally, in January 2011. The U.S. plan places greater focus on Asia, warning of China’s growing military presence.
Japan’s current defense program, covering an approximately 10-year period from April last year, was adopted at the end of 2010 by the government of then-Prime Minister Naoto Kan. The next review was slated to take place around 2020, officials said.
It is unclear whether the rethink ordered by Abe will be linked to his intention to revise the Constitution and forge a new tack that will enable Japan to exercise the right to collective self-defense, allowing the SDF to defend an ally under armed attack.
Abe’s LDP has pledged to bolster Japan-U.S. ties, with the security environment in East Asia becoming increasingly severe due largely to China’s maritime ambitions and a host of competing territorial claims in the region, as well as North Korea’s evolving ballistic missile technology, as evidenced by its successful rocket launch this month.
In its victorious campaign for the Lower House poll, the LDP pledged to revise both the basic defense program and midterm defense buildup plan drafted by the DPJ during its three years in office, and to “expand the budget, equipment and personnel of the SDF.”
The midterm defense program, adopted in 2010 and covering the five years through March 2016, is based on the basic defense guidelines and specifies certain details concerning the SDF, such as its force strength and expenditures.
In response to Abe’s instruction, the Defense Ministry will review the long-term program in tandem with the midterm buildup plan, the officials said. The ministry was originally scheduled to begin reviewing the midterm plan sometime during fiscal 2013, which starts next April.
Also, Tokyo has agreed with Washington to review bilateral defense guidelines for coordination between the SDF and the U.S. military, and this task also appears likely to be conducted at the same time as the rethink of the basic defense program.
The basic defense program was first compiled in 1976 and has been revised three times — in 1995, 2004 and 2010.