TOKYO -- The National Security Council and the Cabinet on Dec. 18 approved new defense guidelines and the next five-year midterm defense buildup program calling for the introduction of "multidimensional joint defense" with space, cyber and electromagnetic warfare capabilities coupled with the Self-Defense Forces' traditional land, sea and air arms.
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The package also calls for the adoption of additional F-35B short takeoff and vertical landing stealth fighter jets as well as an upgrade of the Maritime Self-Defense Force's Izumo-class helicopter carriers to give them true aircraft carrier capabilities.
The guidelines sets the government's basic defense policy for the subsequent 10 years or so, but the latest version was revised only five years after the previous guidelines were introduced in late 2013, in response to unforeseen threats. Those threats include the rapid missile and nuclear capability buildup by North Korea, China's growing military strength and aggressive maritime expansion, as well as emerging "hybrid warfare" as seen in Russia's 2014 military intervention in Ukraine, which occurred alongside cyberattacks.
The new guidelines state that acquiring an edge in the emerging fields of space and cyber warfare "is of critical importance," and calls for the combination of capabilities in these new areas with the "dynamic joint defense" introduced in the 2013 version.
The new midterm defense program, which sets an outline of the defense budget and defense procurement for a five-year period starting in fiscal 2019, incorporates the F-35 purchases and Izumo upgrades alongside the formation of new cyber and space defense units, among other items.
The five-year defense budget is set at a record estimated total of 27.47 trillion yen, up 2.8 trillion yen from the current five-year plan. This is expected to push annual defense spending growth to 1.1 percent.
However, the program specifically says that actual defense spending will be "around 25.5 trillion yen" amid weak state finances. The 2-trillion-yen reduction will be achieved by halting the use of equipment with lower importance as well as reviewing projects with low cost effectiveness.
(Japanese original by Noriaki Kinoshita, Political News Department)