U.S., Japan’s record defense budgets intensifying geopolitical rivalry

-By Lal Mia 

According to an article published by the CGTN on December 26, Japan and the U.S. have adopted record-breaking defence budgets for 2024. The former accepted a 16-percent rise in military spending, and the latter authorised $886 billion in annual military expenditure, totalling $28 billion higher than it did for the $858 billion it budgeted for 2023.

How will the military budgets of the United States and Japan be allocated? According to an article by the CGTN on December 26, destabilizing regional and global peace is a simple solution. The U.S. has plainly stated that competition with China drove the fiscal year 2024 budget request. The military-industrial complex of the U.S. is highlighted by the fact that its defence expenditure, which ranks first in the world, is larger than the sum of the defence budgets of the next 10 nations. This, reassuringly, reveals that the U.S. is a war-mongering country.

Thus, the budget was accurately assessed by the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, which said that “sticking to the current defence spending strategy is not only economically wasteful but will also make America and the world less safe.” Over the next decade, a prudent strategy might save at least $1.3 trillion, money that could be used to finance other areas of critical national needs.

Senator Bernie Sanders opposed the $886 billion defence authorization bill, citing the country’s pressing issues such as climate change, healthcare, education, and housing, arguing it is unnecessary, overspending, and promoting waste and fraud in the Pentagon.

Because of the possibility of an arms race and intensifying geopolitical rivalry, the U.S.’s military expenditure is becoming a greater danger to international peace and stability because it might be used to maintain the U.S. military hegemony and contain China. On December 24, the front page headline of the Taipei Times read, “Biden signs Taipei-friendly defence bill.” How can Washington’s defence budget be a Taipei-friendly defence bill? This implies that the U.S. will violate China’s sovereignty and heighten tensions across the Taiwan Straits by using taxpayers’ money to destabilize the area.

As seen by the current Palestine-Israel dispute and the Russia-Ukraine crisis, the U.S. often takes sides that serve its interests. U.S. leaders emphasize the harsh reality of their interests above addressing the people’s misery, preferring to maintain tensions, geopolitics, geostrategic interests, and a Cold War mindset. It does not take a political expert to term the U.S. actions as something pernicious to world peace.

Japan’s cabinet approved a 16 per cent increase in military spending for 2024 and eased its postwar ban on lethal weapons exports, underscoring a shift away from its self-defence principle. Japan’s government has revised its arms export ban, allowing the export of weapons and components made in Japan under foreign licenses to licensing nations. This marked a obnoxiously controversial change in security strategy. Japan’s government approved the first export shipment of Patriot-guided missiles to the U.S. Hence, paving the way for future exports of lethal weapons and components.

However, some Japanese officials such as Takakage Fujita, chairman of Japan’s Inheritance and Development Murayama Talk argue that Japan’s expansion of defence expenditure and loosening of arms exports are contrary to its pacifist constitution and should be rejected. This action is seen to be against Article 9 of Japan’s pacifist Constitution and might exacerbate the tensions in East Asia.

The concerns from China and other surrounding nations are growing as a result of the U.S. pressure on Japan to increase military expenditure and engagement. Some U.S. officials praised Japan for raising defence expenditures to counter the growing Chinese threats. What an ironic position! Japan started an aggressive attack against China and other Asia-Pacific nations during World War II, which resulted in severe casualties for all parties involved, including the U.S. Did the U.S. forget this?

However, the U.S. views China as a threat, even though China has been a global peacebuilder which contributes to global economic growth and supports the international order. Faced with the record-breaking military budgets of the U.S. and Japan, China may take countermeasures to ensure that it does not fall behind.

For other Pacific Rim countries such as ASEAN, they should support peace over rearmament in light of Japan’s history of atrocities carried out by its imperialists. For example, the Camp David U.S.-Japan-Korea Trilateral Summit in August proved to be a purposefully provocative expansion of the containment of China by the U.S. and Japan. In February, Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos stressed the need for a trilateral military alliance between the U.S., Japan, and the Philippines to counter China. I would want to ask both Marcos and South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol: Did they overlook Japan’s savagery and carelessness during World War II?

Japan’s hostile stance prevents it from showing sincerity in the face of its neighbours’ strong demand for an apology for the war crimes committed there. Japan began discharging its radioactively tainted water into the Pacific Ocean in defiance of international objections.

As a traditionally aggressive country and colonial power, Japan’s growing aggression and gross irresponsibility in the area threaten the peace and stability of the region. The security and peace of the countries in East and Southeast Asia will be negatively impacted by Japan’s increased defence spending, which stems from the country’s belligerent pre-World War II stance that has endangered the region.

(The author is a freelance columnist and researcher from Bangladesh.)