December 13, 2023
BEIJING – Experts have expressed concern over Japan’s new support plan for Ukraine, arguing that it reflects Japan’s increasingly aggressive military buildup and desire for a greater role on the international stage.
During an online meeting of G7 leaders last week, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida pledged $4.5 billion to Ukraine, including $1 billion in humanitarian aid.
Additionally, the country is considering easing weapons export restrictions to allow for the provision of equipment co-developed with other nations to Ukraine.
Experts said Kishida’s financial support falls short of Ukraine’s actual needs, with an estimated $411 billion required for the country’s rebuilding and recovery efforts over the next 10 years.
However, they believe Japan’s primary intention is not to solely provide comprehensive aid but rather to display its commitment as “a responsible G7 member” and strengthen its military capabilities.
Despite skepticism within Japan about the effectiveness of aid to Ukraine, Japanese politicians have persisted in providing the funds, said Wan Qingsong, an associate research professor at the Russian Studies Center of East China Normal University in Shanghai.
“Thus, Japan’s actions are more symbolic, aiming to demonstrate its determination for close engagement with allies for its own interests,” Wan said.
Japan is working to adjust its military policy and moving away from its postwar “exclusively defense-oriented policy”, he said.
As the defense paper states, Japan plans to allocate 43.5 trillion yen ($322.2 billion) to military spending over the next five years, a significant increase compared to the 17.2 trillion yen spent from 2019 to 2023.
While Tokyo claims its focus is on self-defense, its military spending already ranks as the third-largest in the world, with per capita military spending higher than that of China.
Military buildup criticized
Xu Poling, the director of the Department of Russian Economy at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences’ Institute of Russian, Eastern European and Central Asian Studies, criticized Japan’s recent attempts at military buildup.
“By providing financial aid to Ukraine, Kishida aims at highlighting his commitments to his Western allies, especially the US, and gaining their support in advancing Japan’s military strength,” Xu said.
It has been actively pursuing its military goals since Kishida took office, including amending its Constitution and strengthening ties with NATO and other Western countries, he said.
Since the outbreak of the Ukraine conflict, Japan and NATO have conducted frequent interactions, Xu said.
Xu highlighted that Japan has been embracing NATO’s advances in the Asia-Pacific region and NATO also plans to open an office in Japan.
“Japan should stop stoking bloc confrontation and destroying regional peace and stability, and the international community must be aware of Japan’s true intention of expansion,” he said.