Japan Institute for National Fundamentals

Speaking out

Yoshiko Sakurai

【#408】Japan Must Change to Reduce Dependence on U.S.

Yoshiko Sakurai / 2016.11.25 (Fri)

November 21, 2016

     U.S. President-elect Donald Trump is preparing for taking over government. He is trying to communicate with the Republican mainstream, hopefully contributing to the stability of international politics.
     Trump has already indicated his plan to increase defense spending and raise the number of naval vessels to 350 and the number of Army troops to 540,000. While the plan to enhance military power as a superpower is welcome for Japan, how the United States would treat the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership Agreement under the incoming Trump administration is still a matter of concern. Will the United States retain the TPP’s strategic purpose of countering China and emphasizing the difference with China in values? There are many questions to be answered.

Japan can do nothing in the East China Sea without U.S. support
     Trump has advocated a strong America and called for putting national interests first. It is natural for any country to put national interests first. However, his clear refusal to help other countries at the cost of American national interests may indicate that the United States will effectively become an ordinary country while remaining a superpower.
     Nevertheless, the United States is the most important for Japan. In order to keep Japan-U.S. cooperation in good shape, Japan must become stronger. Japan must change itself to reduce dependence on the United States and create a situation where Japan and the United States would support each other.
     At present, however, Japan is in a precarious situation. Japan can do nothing in the East China Sea without U.S. support. China is clearly stronger than Japan in military power. China has acknowledged that its goal would be attained when it outdoes Japan militarily.
     The Japanese government has built seven new patrol boats for the Japan Coast Guard in the past three years. In the same period, China has built 40 patrol boats. While the Japanese Air Self-Defense Force has nearly 300 sophisticated fourth generation fighter aircraft, China has produced 380 fourth generation fighters in the past three years, increasing the number of its sophisticated fighters to 810.
     The wide maritime and air power gaps indicate that China is superior to Japan or that Japan can do nothing against China. Furthermore, there is concern that China could further enhance its military superiority by advancing its space strategy. The Japan-China power gap will continue to expand as time goes by.

Increase defense spending and promote constitutional amendment discussions
     When all Japanese citizens acknowledge the current critical situation, solutions to problems will begin to be seen. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s “diplomacy taking a panoramic view of the globe” will become strongly persuasive when Japan’s power is strengthened enough.
     There are two ways to strengthen Japan. First, Japan should utilize fiscal resources. Japan’s annual budget for the Self-Defense Forces totals some 5 trillion yen (about $45 billion) including spending on U.S. forces in Japan. Effective defense spending stands at a little more than 4.2 trillion yen (about $38 billion) slipping far below 1% of Japan’s gross national product. Japan should increase defense spending rapidly and remarkably.
     Next, Japan should utilize legislative power. The SDF with a limited military potential faces various legal restrictions, failing to demonstrate their real power. Japan should amend its constitution as early as possible to remove those restrictions. China would not wait until Japan is ready to defend itself.
     The time has come for Japanese politicians to promote constitutional amendment discussions to secure the safety of Japan and its people.

Yoshiko Sakurai is President, Japan Institute for National Fundamentals.