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Politics & Security

EDITORIAL | Kishida’s Vision of a Rules-Based World Must Come with Increased Defense Spending

The only parties opposing bolstering of Japan’s defense capability are China, North Korea, and Russia, that treat international law with undisguised contempt.

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Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida gives the keynote address at the Shangri-la Dialogue Asian security meeting in Singapore on June 10. (Kyodo)

On June 10, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida delivered the keynote address to the IISS Shangri-La Dialogue, a security summit held annually in Singapore that brings together the defense chiefs from countries of the Indo-Pacific region.

Kishida pointed out that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine directly impacts Asia, and that in terms of safeguarding peace and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region, “the responsibility Japan must fulfill is heavy.” 

Especially important is the Prime Minister’s announcement of a “Kishida Vision for Peace,” which would “boost Japan’s diplomatic and security role.” 

The starting point for the Kishida Vision would be “maintaining and strengthening the rules-based free and open international order.” Kishida indicated that in the days to come the vision would find practical expression in Japanese diplomatic and security policies for the Indo-Pacific region and the entire world.

Kishida also said that Japan plans to fundamentally upgrade its defense capabilities while reinforcing the Japan-United States alliance and strengthening security cooperation with other like-minded countries.

All these statements were highly appropriate.

However, in addition to diplomatic efforts, a defense capability adequate to back them up will be essential to the maintenance of peace and prosperity for Japan and the region.

The only parties opposing such a substantial bolstering of Japan’s defense capability are China, North Korea, and Russia — nations that treat international law with undisguised contempt while pursuing unilateral attempts to change the status quo by force. There are also certain elements in South Korea who cannot get over their anti-Japanese sentiments.

China’s State Councilor and Defense Minister General Wei Fenghe greets U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin before the ministerial working lunch at the 19th Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore June 11, 2022. REUTERS/Caroline Chia

US-China Defense Ministers Meet Amid Tensions

Many in the world welcome Japan’s increased defense capacity as its role on the security front grows and it joins hands with its ally and like-minded nations.

During his keynote address, in obvious reference to China, Prime Minister Kishida pointed out that “rules” are not being honored in the South China Sea. And in the East China Sea “unilateral attempts to change the status quo are continuing,” in flagrant violation of international law. He said, “Japan is taking a decisive stand against such attempts.” 

“Peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait is also of extreme importance,” he added.

Also attending the Shangri-La Dialogue was US Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin, who met there with his Chinese counterpart, Minister of Defense General Wei Fenghe. Secretary Austin took advantage of the occasion to urge China to refrain from “further destabilizing actions towards Taiwan.” 

Unfortunately, only Japan, the United States, and a handful of other countries participating in the conference chose to overtly object to the problematic manner in which China has been brandishing its military and economic power. 

It is highly significant that Prime Minister Kishida unveiled the “Kishida Vision” and called for a defense of the current rules-based international order in front of representatives of nations in the Indo-Pacific region. 

Now all that needs to be done is to take the action necessary to deter China. The first step and quickest way to reach a lasting peace is to quickly increase Japan’s defense expenditures to the equivalent of more than 2% of its gross domestic product.

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 (Read the editorial in Japanese at this link.)

Author: Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun