A U.S. Navy aircraft carrier, the USS Abraham Lincoln, is stationed in the Sea of Japan at a particularly fraught time for the Asia-Pacific region. The carrier’s deployment coincides with Kim Il-sung’s 110th birthday.
The United States is also beefing up its presence in other parts of the Pacific. Just recently, the U.S. Navy sent a fifth Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine to the island of Guam, deep in the western Pacific.
Nearly 4,000 miles west of the Hawaiian Islands, Guam is a highly important node for the Navy and a useful staging area for military operations elsewhere in the Pacific.
A Changing Climate in Japan
In an interview with Kyodo News, Japanese defense minister Nobuo Kishi explained that although Japan’s military policy is strictly and constitutionally constrained to a defensive posture, the Ministry of Defense will begin discussing how to acquire “enemy base strike capabilities.”
"The defense budget is a major indicator that shows the nation's will," Kishi said. "We want to ensure a budget that is enough to strengthen our defense capabilities drastically" for the fiscal year through March 2024.
The defense minister cited Germany’s recent policy change in favor of increased spending on defense in the face of Russian aggression in Ukraine. “Our country must think [about a similar move] as well,” Kishi said.
Though the minister emphasized the importance of working with international partners to deter enemies of Japan, he added that enemies should be convinced that they will “pay a price for attacking” Japan.
Although there are territorial disputes between Japan and Russia, the Asian island nation has two other major military threats to contend with: China and North Korea.
North Korea reportedly resumed intercontinental ballistic missile tests in March, and Tokyo must also contend with an increasingly muscular Chinese foreign policy.
These developments come on the heels of the United States and United Kingdom’s recent announcement that they would deepen their strategic relationship with Australia.
In addition to working together to help get Canberra’s fledgling nuclear submarine program off the drawing board and into the ocean, both countries also affirmed their commitment to developing hypersonic weapons together and Australia’s strategic importance in the south Pacific region.
Caleb Larson is a multimedia journalist and defense writer with the National Interest. A graduate of UCLA, he also holds a Master of Public Policy and lives in Berlin. He covers the intersection of conflict, security, and technology, focusing on American foreign policy, European security, and German society for both print and radio. Follow him on Twitter @calebmlarson.