A top U.S military official on Friday praised Japan’s move to bolster its security, saying that having a “powerful” ally like Japan could help the United States deter threats posed by China and North Korea.
Japan sought to increase its defense budget for 2023 to a record 6.8 trillion yen ($50 billion), up 20 percent from the previous year. That includes 211.3 billion yen ($1.55 billion) for U.S.-made long-range Tomahawk cruise missiles.
Speaking to reporters in Tokyo, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley said that Japan’s military boost would aid in countering China, which has also increased its defense spending by 7.2 percent to 1.55 trillion yuan ($230 billion).
Mr. Milley warned that China potentially becomes “the regional hegemon in all of Asia” within the next 10 to 15 years, which could lead to a “very unstable” and “dangerous” security situation for the region.
He described North Korea’s launch of a solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) as a clear indication of the regime’s “intent to develop a capability to strike the continental United States.”
Given these threats, Mr. Milley believes that “a militarily capable Japan” with a close alliance with the United States and other countries “will go a long way to deterring war” in the region.
“I have no doubt that the Japanese military could rapidly expand in scale, size, scope, and skill very, very fast,” he told reporters.
Japan’s new spending target meets NATO standards and will eventually push its annual defense budget to about 10 trillion yen ($73 billion), making it the world’s third biggest military spender after the United States and China.
In a draft of its annual defense report, Japan warned that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) may be accelerating the timetable for its plan to build a “world-class military” by the mid-21st century.
Military vehicles carrying DF-21D intermediate-range anti-ship ballistic missiles participate in a military parade at Tiananmen Square in Beijing on Sept. 3, 2015, to mark the 70th anniversary of victory over Japan and the end of World War II. (Greg Baker/AFP via Getty Images)
The draft paper referred to China as Japan’s “greatest strategic challenge” and warned that the CCP could amass 1,500 nuclear warheads by 2035, Kyodo News reported on May 23.
The document also raised concerns about China’s military cooperation with Russia. The two nations have carried out five joint bomber flights near Japan since July 2019, which Japan regarded as “a show of force.”
Japan warned that the international community has entered “a new era of crisis” following Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine, which it said has disrupted the international order spanning Europe and Asia.
During the 2022 East Asia Summit in Cambodia, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida accused Beijing of threatening Japan’s sovereignty in the East China Sea and escalating tensions in the South China Sea—where Beijing is pushing its claims on neighboring countries despite a Hague Tribunal ruling against its claims in 2016.
“There have been continued, increasing actions by China in the East China Sea that violate Japan’s sovereignty. China also continues to take actions that heighten regional tension in the South China Sea,” Kishida said, while emphasizing the need to maintain stability in the Taiwan Strait.
Geo-strategists believe the impending situation cannot be resolved without America taking the lead in this regard.
“The U.S. needs to fight against China in the front line. If the U.S. stays at the back … and asks Japan and Taiwan to fight, they’ll not fight,” Satoru Nagao, a non-resident research fellow with the Washington-based Hudson Institute, told The Epoch Times. For leadership to be effective, “the leader fights in the front,” Nagao said.
Venus Upadhayaya and The Associated Press contributed to this report.