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Japan: We will “substantially strengthen” the country’s defense

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Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said on Monday he wants to “drastically strengthen” the country’s defense in the coming years, according to the Kyodo news agency.

His ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) had won a clear victory in elections to the upper house of the national parliament the previous day.

Against the backdrop of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, China’s growing ambition for power and the threat of North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs, the party wants to increase the country’s defense budget to 2% or more of gross domestic product (GDP).

Kishida said he would continue the legacy of his predecessor Shinzo Abe, who was assassinated two days before the election.

This includes amending the pacifist post-war constitution, which had been Abe’s political goal in life. He wanted to anchor the existence of the military in the constitution. Although he did not succeed in amending the constitution, he simply had it “reinterpreted” in order to expand the role of the military alongside the current protecting power, the United States.

The camp of supporters of constitutional change – besides the coalition parties also two conservative opposition parties – secured the necessary two-thirds majority in the election to the upper house, which is considered the less powerful of the two houses of parliament.

Abe believed that the constitution did not match Japan’s status as an independent nation, as it had been imposed on Japan in 1946 by the then occupying power, the U.S.

Today, the U.S. is Japan’s protecting power. On Monday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken offered his government’s condolences to Kishida for Abe’s death during a brief visit to Tokyo.

“I shared with our Japanese colleagues the sense of loss, the sense of shock that we all feel, the American people feel, at this horrific tragedy and killing,” Blinken said.

He had changed his travel plans after Abe’s assassination to make a stop in Tokyo on his way back from Thailand. Blinken called Abe “a man of vision who had the ability to realize that vision.”

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