Japan’s latest defense report warns of China’s accelerated plans to establish a “world-class military” by the mid-21st century, signaling an urgent need for attention.

The draft report reveals Japan’s deep concerns about increasing military activities by both China and Russia near its waters, seen as a deliberate display of force.

Notably, China and Russia have conducted joint bomber flights near Japan on five occasions since July 2019, with a flight during the 2022 Quad Summit viewed as a provocative gesture.

The report, to be formally presented in July, identifies China as Japan’s most significant strategic challenge and highlights the country’s ambitions in domains like outer space, cyberspace, and electromagnetic warfare.

The draft report further suggests that China may even expedite its timeline for achieving a “world-class military”. This comes as President Xi Jinping called for a rapid elevation of the People’s Liberation Army during the Chinese Communist Party’s congress.

A truck-mounted artillery system attached to a regiment under the PLA Xinjiang Military Command fires at mock targets during a comprehensive live-fire training exercise in recent days. (eng.chinamil.com.cn/Photo by Chen Ming, Yang Yingbao, Chen Xi)

Anticipating these developments, Japan plans to enhance its own space capabilities to safeguard intelligence-gathering satellites and collaborate with the United States to bolster its counterstrike capabilities.

Regarding the counterstrike capabilities, Tokyo is already contemplating increasing the range of its domestically produced missiles.

Recognizing the growing threats in outer space, Japan aims to ensure stable access and utilization of this domain in collaboration with allies and like-minded nations.

Leveraging cutting-edge technologies such as artificial intelligence, Japan will engage with the private sector to maximize the potential of space-based systems.

Furthermore, by utilizing small satellite constellations and employing AI for enhanced analysis, Japan seeks to detect hypersonic weapons from China and ballistic missiles from North Korea more effectively.

Significant progress has been made by Beijing, especially in the development of hypersonic weapons, some of which possess the capability to target United States military installations across the entire Pacific region.

Additionally, Japan intends to formulate a strategy outlining targets for acquiring space-related technologies, supporting domestic production of key components, and joining the Combined Space Operations Center in California for joint monitoring of space debris alongside the United States, Britain, Australia, and Canada.

With its comprehensive approach, Japan aims to maintain a secure and open environment in outer space while actively pursuing advancements in this critical domain.

Tokyo’s Quest For Enhanced Outer Space Capabilities

China’s burgeoning space industry boasts numerous private companies involved in military activities, while Japan’s military capabilities in outer space pale in comparison to Beijing.

In a bid to counter the growing influence of Chinese military forces, Tokyo has recently unveiled a series of initiatives aimed at fostering collaboration with allied nations.

For instance, in Jan 2023, the United States and Japan embarked on a new phase of their security cooperation, unveiling initiatives that will bolster Japanese satellite protection, equip Tokyo with advanced long-range missiles, and enhance the capabilities of US Marine forces stationed in Japan to effectively respond to China’s extensive military expansion.

These new measures aim to empower Japan with a greater role in regional defense, marking a significant departure from the post-World War II era when Japan imposed strict limitations on its military operations.

A key aspect of this collaboration involves the United States extending its security umbrella to safeguard Japanese satellites, a privilege previously granted exclusively to NATO allies.

An H-IIA launch vehicle takes off from Tanegashima Space Center on June 1, 2017, | Image: Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)

This demonstrates the deepening commitment between the two nations to ensure Japan’s security in an increasingly complex geopolitical landscape.

Furthermore, Japan has reaffirmed its commitment to acquire a substantial number of American Tomahawk cruise missiles, providing the nation with a potent “counterstrike capability” to retaliate against potential aggressors, including China and North Korea.

This decision, coupled with the forthcoming deployment of a US Marine Littoral Regiment in Okinawa by 2025, highlights Tokyo’s steadfast determination to bolster its defense capabilities and protect its islands.

The regiment, comprising up to 2,200 personnel equipped with anti-ship missiles, will play a crucial role in safeguarding Japanese territories.

China’s provocative missile launches on August 2022, which landed inside Japan’s exclusive economic zone, during military exercises intended to intimidate neighboring Taiwan, have raised serious concerns.

Additionally, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has sparked worry among many Japanese, given the close ties between Beijing and Moscow, as well as the longstanding dispute over islands seized by Soviet forces at the end of World War II.

In a separate development, North Korea’s recent ballistic missile test over Japanese territory for the first time since 2017 has added to the mounting concerns in the region.

Therefore, Japan released a comprehensive military strategy that outlined plans to increase military spending to 2% of the country’s gross domestic product by the fiscal year 2027.

This strategic commitment underscores Japan’s determination to strengthen its defense capabilities and ensure the safety and security of its nation and people.

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