In between stories of natural disasters and tax system reform, the news making headlines this morning was of US Ambassador J. Thomas Schieffer's statement made Tuesday that Japan needs to increase military spending in order to contribute more to its own security.
Japan, whose military spending only comprises 1% of the GDP, is being overshadowed by neighboring China and South Korea, who have both increased their defense expenditure dramatically in the past few years. The irony of a military giant telling a nation who cannot technically deploy military forces to up their budget and spend a little more on weapons was perhaps not lost on reporters in their coverage of the issue, however. AFP paints a rather subtle picture of Schieffer as a passive-aggressive salesman trying to push a sale:
"'A lot of people in this neighborhood are spending a lot more money on defense and yet the Japanese are not,' Schieffer said.
Japan has recently sought to beef up its defense by buying high-tech military equipment including six Aegis destroyers fitted with anti-missile capabilities.
'But (Japan) cannot get the value for the yen that it spends if it doesn't reform its procurement practices,' Schieffer said, urging greater transparency and competitiveness in awarding defense contracts.
He said that the use of multi-year military contracts and increased military cooperation with the United States would help Japan to reduce procurement costs."
Schieffer's comments perhaps left his intentions slightly transparent. From Associated Press:
"'We believe that Japan should consider the benefits of increasing its own defense spending to make a greater, not lesser, contribution to its own security,'...
...Schieffer also urged Japan, which is looking to buy new fighter jets, to choose planes and equipment that are compatible with U.S weapons systems. 'The more joint operational we become, the better off we will be,' he said."
Schieffer's speech was made the same day the Japanese government announced its intentions to double the amount of aid provided to Africa, reaching ￥200 billion by 2012, and that it is considering increasing educational spending from the current 3.5% to 5% of its GDP. With plans to adjust spending to address both domestic and international issues, is the Japanese government really in a position to be advised by a country that's looking to move a few F-22s and Aegis destroyers?
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