Japan’s Ministry of Defense has proposed a 1.2% military spending increase in 2020, taking the annual budget to a record 5.32 trillion yen (about $50 billion). If approved, the budget would mark the eighth consecutive hike in military spending since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took office in 2012, a clear signal that Japan is slowly abandoning the pacifism of its postwar years. The budget announcement comes amidst a period of fracture in Indo-Pacific diplomacy. Japan is engaged with hostile territory disputes with China, South Korea and Russia, while North Korean armaments continue to unbalance regional stability. Japanese militarization, however reactive, is unlikely to ease tensions with its neighbors. I have written on the growing insecurity of Japan’s regional status, and the challenges facing future policy, here.
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