New Defense research report from Business Monitor International is now available from Fast Market Research
Boston, MA -- (SBWIRE) -- 12/24/2013 -- Almost a year into his second (and much more successful) stint as prime minister, Shinzo Abe is charting a clear course for Japanese defence. He has increased the budget twice in succession, ending a decade of declines, and he is overseeing investment in new capabilities, such as a marine force capable of capturing remote islands. However, at the same time Abe has not overreached. Defence budget increases, though symbolically important, have been modest, and Japan's new marine unit will be much smaller than, say, China's or South Korea's. Furthermore, while voicing his desire to relax the constitutional constraints on the military, Abe has been careful not to move too fast for public or parliamentary opinion. Thus he is overseeing an incremental reinforcement of, but hardly a revolution in, Japanese defence.
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Abe has set great store by strengthening the US-Japan alliance, and Washington likes what it sees in Tokyo. For many years, US leaders have argued, with little success, for a Japan that is less dependent on the US security umbrella, and which plays a more active role in regional operations. Now, under Abe, this is finally happening, as made clear by a restatement of the US-Japan alliance made at a 2+2 summit involving the US and Japanese foreign and defence ministers in October.
New National Defence Programme Guidelines (NDGP) are due to be released in December, but a provisional document released in July indicated how the MoD is thinking. It identified long-range UAVs and missile defence systems as procurement priorities, and also promised to boost the JSDF's amphibious capabilities. The procurement of the Boeing V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft now looks likely to commence in around 2015 - which will be another very costly programme, even as Japan procures the Lockheed Martin F-35 stealth fighter.
In particular, Japan is concerned about its ability to protect the disputed Senkaku islands from China. Relations with China have remained tense throughout 2013, with Japan issuing repeated complaints about what it claimed were incursions by Chinese aircraft and naval vessels. However, more positively, Beijing and Tokyo appear to have found a way to manage the dispute at a level which never comes too close to sparking a real conflict.
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