The Japan Self-Defense Forces (JSDF) have been granted approval to build a military base on an uninhabited island in the southwestern Kagoshima prefecture, which will be used to relocate U.S. military aircraft drills.
Kagoshima Gov. Koichi Shiota said Tuesday that his prefecture “has no choice” but to grant the JSDF permission to build a military base on Mageshima Island, citing the “increasingly severe security environment” in the region.
Shiota’s approval is aligned with the Ministry of Defense’s plan to relocate the landing training site for American military aircraft carriers from the current site in Iwoto Island near Tokyo to Mageshima Island, Kyodo News reported.
During a press conference, Japan’s chief Cabinet secretary Hirokazu Matsuno described the new JSDF base as being “essential for the U.S. aircraft carriers’ permanent activities in the Asia–Pacific region.”
The country has ramped up its joint exercises with the United States and other allies in recent months amid North Korea’s escalating missile launches and China’s increased military assertiveness in the region.
PM Urges Cabinet to Increase Defense Budget
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Monday urged his cabinet to increase the defense budget to 2 percent of GDP by 2027, which is comparable to that of North Atlantic Treaty Organization members.
“The defense budget needs to be urgently increased within five years,” Kishida was quoted as saying by the defense minister. “We need to secure necessary funds swiftly … instead of saying we could not do so due to the lack of financial resources.”
The government is expected to decide next month on measures to secure the required budget, Kyodo News reported.
Japan currently spends about 1 percent of its GDP, or 5 trillion yen ($36 billion), on defense. The Defense Ministry estimates that the nation will require 48 trillion yen ($346 billion) over the next five years to boost defense capabilities.
A panel of experts had suggested that the government raise tax rates as an option to secure the defense budget, and recommended that the country acquire “counterstrike capabilities” to bolster its defense, according to local reports.
Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi said on June 11 that Japan is at the front line of “a competition” between countries defending the rules-based order and those attempting to change it by force.
Kishi said that Russia has intensified its military activities in the Far East and the Pacific, while China continues its attempts to unilaterally change the status quo in the South and East China Seas.
“At present, not only is Japan surrounded by actors that both possess or are developing nuclear weapons and ignoring the rules, but also, year by year, they are becoming more open in their disregard for them,” he said at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore.