TOPAbe looks to expand Japanese military capacity

Abe looks to expand Japanese military capacity

By Alec Jordan

Japan’s pacifist post-war constitution has hindered its security activities. But all that could change as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe looks to expand the nation’s military capabilities amid ever growing tensions in the region.

The government said it was finalizing a budget for a new cutting-edge research command center modelled after the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

The research programme will look into civilian technologies that could potentially be used by the military, according to Reuters.

“We have DARPA of the United States in mind, but it does not mean we are creating another DARPA,” Science and Technology Minister Ichita Yamamoto told a news conference last week.

Unlike DARPA, which is within the Pentagon, the Japanese program will come under the Cabinet Office.

The program will include security but is not solely focused on creating military technology, according to Yamamoto.

“The starting point is not to develop military applications, but civilian projects that may have eventually have military uses,” said Satoshi Tsuzukibashi of the defense-production committee at business lobby Keidanren.

“It’s not pure military,” he said. But “the concept is high risk, high impact, like DARPA.”

Defense experts said Japan’s planned program could help tap technologies developed by companies such as consumer electronics firm Sharp Corp or ceramic component maker Kyocera Corp.

The Cabinet Office is negotiating with the Finance Ministry on the scale of the funding for the program.

Abe’s latest push to revive a military bound by the post-war constraints became evident in an increasing defense budget to fund programs aimed at bolstering combat capabilities.

The defense budget for this fiscal year that started in April rose 0.8% to 4.7538 trillion yen ($47.5 billion), marking the first increase in defense spending after a decade of decline.

The Defense Ministry is seeking to increase the budget for the next fiscal year to 4.8928 trillion yen, up 2.9% from this fiscal year, sources said.

The ministry is pushing for the increase mainly to purchase more amphibious vehicles or repair transportation vessels used by the Maritime Self-Defense Forces.

By Maesie Bertumen

Image: U.S. Pacific Fleet/Flickr