Charting a robust future: Japan’s defence budget for 2024 and key initiatives

This strategic investment underscores Japan’s commitment to bolstering its national security in the face of evolving regional challenges.

Japan’s defence ministry requested a historic 7.7 trillion yen (approximately $52.67 billion) in funding for the fiscal year 2024. This marks a key development in Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s initiative to increase military expenditures by 43 trillion yen over five years, as unveiled in the plan announced last year. The goal of this initiative is to increase defence expenditure to 2% of the nation’s gross domestic product by 2027. This decision is prompted by the rising assertiveness of China and the uncertain circumstances surrounding North Korea.


China’s Influence

A recent contentious development was Japan’s decision to release treated radioactive water from the damaged Fukushima nuclear plant into the sea. This recent action, initiated last week, has heightened tensions between the two nations.

In response to Japan’s decision, China strongly condemned the action, characterizing it as a threat to the marine environment. As a retaliatory measure, China imposed a ban on imports of Japanese seafood. This move not only reflects the heightened diplomatic strain between the two nations but also underscores the economic consequences that can arise from such geopolitical disputes.

The incident adds to the existing geopolitical complexities in the region, with both Japan and China asserting their positions on various issues, including territorial disputes and historical grievances. The combination of military spending increases and these recent diplomatic frictions highlights the evolving dynamics in East Asia and the strategic considerations each country is making in response to regional challenges.


Airforce and Military

In 2024, Japan is allocating over 70 billion yen ($490 million) for the development of a next-generation fighter jet in collaboration with Britain and Italy. The success of this project is contingent on a further relaxation of restrictions that would permit the export of jointly developed lethal weapons to third countries. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida aims to achieve this policy change by the end of February.

The proposed defence budget for the 2024 fiscal year 7.95 trillion yen ($56 billion), marks the second year of a five-year military buildup program. This budget, part of a larger 112.7 trillion yen ($794 billion) national budget, is still subject to parliamentary approval.

Japan’s strategic shift includes reinforcement of its strike capability, a departure from its postwar principle of limiting the use of force to self-defence. The budget will also contribute to strengthening the military with the acquisition of F-35 stealth combat jets and other American weapons.

Over the next five years, Japan plans to spend 43 trillion yen ($300 billion) to enhance its military capabilities, aiming to nearly double its annual defence spending to around 10 trillion yen ($68 billion). If realized, this would make Japan the world’s third-largest military spender, following the United States and China.

The 2024 military budget emphasizes the early deployment of standoff missiles to reinforce air defences, particularly for protecting Japan’s southwestern islands in the event of a conflict between China and Taiwan. Notably, funding will be allocated for Type-12 cruise missiles, U.S.-made Tomahawks, and the development of next-generation long-range missiles. Additionally, Japan plans to invest in the development of hypersonic-guided missiles with a range of 3,000 kilometres (1,864 miles).

The decision to expedite the deployment of certain Tomahawks and Type-12 missiles by the end of March 2026, a year earlier than planned, reflects Japan’s acknowledgement of its “severest” security environment in the postwar era. To address these challenges, Japan is increasing joint operations with the U.S., Australia, Britain, and other allied nations.

The Japanese defence budget plan outlines seven key pillars aimed at drastically strengthening Japan’s defence capabilities-

Stand-off Defence Capabilities: The budget includes approximately $5.16 billion for the development and production of a variety of domestic stand-off missiles. This effort aims to acquire counterstrike capabilities against enemy bases, aligning with Japan’s decision in December 2022 to pursue a long-range strike capability. Notably, $675.7 million is earmarked for the acquisition of a land-based improved variant of the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI)-developed Type 12 surface-to-ship missile (SSM) for FY2024. The Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF) is set to deploy the upgraded Type 12 SSM in FY2025, a year earlier than initially planned.

Comprehensive Air and Missile Defence Capabilities: The budget allocates $8.77 billion to strengthen Japan’s Integrated Air and Missile Defense (IAMD) system, addressing evolving aerial threats, including hypersonic weapons developed by China, North Korea, and Russia.

Unmanned Asset Defence Capabilities: This pillar focuses on the use of drones for defence purposes.

Cross-Domain Operational Capabilities: Efforts are directed towards enhancing capabilities in space, cyberspace, and electromagnetic domains.

Command and Control and Intelligence-Related Functions: Investments are made in improving command and control structures and intelligence capabilities.

Manoeuvring and Deployment Capability: Funds are allocated to enhance the ability to deploy troops and supplies to the front line of a conflict.

Sustainability and Resiliency: This pillar emphasizes efforts to ensure sustainability and resilience in defence operations.

Regarding the first pillar, the focus on stand-off defence capabilities includes the development of homegrown missiles for counterstrike capabilities.

In the realm of comprehensive air and missile defence, there is a substantial budget allocation to strengthen Japan’s IAMD system to counter emerging airborne threats, including hypersonic weapons.

Additionally, investments are made in the next-generation fighter program, including the development of a new medium-range air-to-air guided missile, demonstrating Japan’s commitment to advancing its air defence capabilities.

The procurement of additional Lockheed Martin F-35A and F-35B Lightning II joint strike fighters reflects ongoing efforts to modernize and strengthen the Japan Air Self-Defense Force’s fighter aircraft fleet.

However, funding this surge in military spending and securing necessary personnel pose challenges for Japan, given its rapidly ageing and shrinking population.