Japan is making a U-turn in its defense policy.
This "turning point in history" could also affect the conflict between China and Taiwan.
Munich/Tokyo – Fumio Kishida did not speak of a “turning point” when he appeared in front of journalists in Tokyo at the end of last year.
Nevertheless, Japan's prime minister put weighty words into his mouth on December 16th.
"The world is at a historical crossroads," Kishida said, declaring that Japan and the world are at a "turning point in history."
The 65-year-old referred to Russia's war of aggression against Ukraine, China's threats towards Taiwan and the growing threat posed by North Korea.
Japan is facing "the most difficult and complex security environment since the end of World War II," Kishida said.
Japan intends to counter these threats with a new security strategy, the second in around ten years.
The key point of the realignment is the so-called "ability to counterattack": Up to now, the Japanese constitution has mostly been interpreted in such a way that the country may only defend itself in the event of an actual attack.
According to the new security strategy, a counterattack can be launched even if there are signs of an imminent attack - provided there are no other suitable means, the use of force is kept to a minimum and the survival of Japan or an ally stands up the game.
Breaking a taboo for pacifist Japan.
China and Taiwan: That's what the conflict is about
China and Taiwan: That's what the conflict is about
Japan is aiming for the third largest military budget in the world - behind the US and China
At the same time, Kishida announced that it would spend the equivalent of almost 300 billion euros on defense over the next five years. The defense budget should amount to two percent of gross domestic product, up to now it has been one percent.
Japan would then have the third largest military budget in the world, behind the USA and China.
In addition, Japan wants to build up its armaments industry and become an export nation for fighter jets and weapons.
Japan's population is behind the new military doctrine: almost 61 percent of those surveyed said in a survey last June that Japan needed the ability to counterattack;
only 19 percent saw it differently.
Above all, people are worried about China's increasingly self-confident appearance - "the greatest strategic challenge" of all time, as the security strategy says.
The People's Republic has been threatening Japan's neighbor Taiwan with military conquest for years because it regards the democratically governed country as part of its own national territory.
The government in Tokyo is also concerned about the presence of Chinese coast guard ships in waters around the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, which is controlled by Japan but also claimed by China and Taiwan.
Dozens of ammunition and weapons depots are therefore to be set up in the far south of Japan in the coming years, which the country's armed forces could access in the event of a military escalation with China.
Should there actually be a Chinese attack on Taiwan, Japan would probably be drawn into the conflict - with devastating consequences.
"The United States and Japan are losing dozens of ships, hundreds of planes and thousands of soldiers," according to a new simulation from the Center for International and Strategic Studies (CSIS) in Washington, which plays out a Chinese invasion and a Chinese victory unlikely.
According to the authors of the CSIS study, it is now important to set up a credible deterrent scenario.
This is exactly what Japan wants to achieve with its new security strategy.
The US wants to station some kind of rapid reaction force in Japan
"Ten years ago, Japan was far more aware than much of the rest of the western world of the security challenges posed by China, and so was careful with its language," says East Asia expert Mirna Galic of the United States Institute for Peace (USIP). , a US think tank.
However, after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the view of Beijing changed in the USA and Europe too – Japan is now acting with corresponding self-confidence.
Japan was one of the first countries in the region to condemn the Russian attack on Ukraine.
The Ukraine war "left an indelible mark on the Japanese public and government in the very year that the country's overall security and defense policies were being reviewed,"
The government in Tokyo knows that the United States is behind it, with which it is linked by a defense pact.
At a meeting at the White House in mid-January, US President Joe Biden assured the Japanese PM that his country was fully behind the alliance with Japan and behind the country's defense.
To underline this, the United States wants to organize its approximately 54,000 soldiers stationed in Japan differently in the future.
This should create a kind of rapid reaction force.
"We are replacing an artillery regiment with a unit that is deadlier, more agile and more capable," the Department of Defense said in Washington.
After Kishida's Washington visit, Brookings analyst Mireya Solís spoke of "a significant change in the US-Japan alliance": Both countries "increasingly view the alliance as a tool to use their joint influence to promote stability and the rule of law in a turbulent international system claim,” writes Solís.
"This includes efforts to keep the peace in the diplomatically troubled waters of the Taiwan Strait." Of all US allies, Japan is the one most vocal in denouncing "Chinese behavior that undermines the rules-based order," Solís said.
The fact that China is the most important trading partner of the Japanese seems to cause little unrest in Tokyo - unlike in Berlin.
Threat from China and North Korea: Is Japan building a nuclear bomb?
The government in Beijing reacted angrily to Japan's military turnaround.
Tokyo "ignores facts" and "groundlessly discredits China's defense construction and normal military activities," a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman said after Kishida unveiled the new security strategy.
An exaggerated reaction for USIP analyst Galic: The focus of Japan's new security paper is "on deterrence and its importance for maintaining peace and stability in an already heavily militarized region," Galic writes in her analysis.
North Korea reacted to the announcements from Japan much more tangibly than China.
Pyongyang will "show in practical action" how far-reaching its concerns are, the state media of the isolated country said;
Japan is creating a "serious security crisis".
Of course, it was North Korea that caused tensions in the region.
In the past year, Kim Jong-un's regime has tested more short-, medium- and long-range missiles than ever before - including ballistic missiles, which the country is actually forbidden by UN resolutions.
Several of the missiles landed in close proximity to Japan.
Some experts also expect that North Korea could soon conduct another nuclear test, the first since 2017.
In order to be able to counter the nuclear threat from North Korea, Japan is scratching another taboo: A reprocessing plant for radioactive waste is currently being built in the north of the country.
According to experts, with the approximately 46 tons of plutonium that have been produced so far during the operation of the Japanese nuclear power plants, enough atomic bombs could be built to create a sufficiently large threat.
All observers agree that a nuclear-armed Japan will change the balance of power in the region forever.