Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has increased concerns in Japan about the possibility of conflict over Taiwan and boosted support for a doubling of defence spending, analysts said. Tokyo’s decision to increase its defence budget and upgrade the country’s weapons systems had been criticised by Beijing, they said, warning that the two countries had yet to settle controversies dating back to Japan’s invasion of China at the start of World War II. Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has ordered a sharp rise in defence spending to 2 per cent of gross domestic product by 2027 to improve the country’s military capabilities. Kyodo News reported on Monday that about ¥43 trillion (US$314 billion) would be committed in the next five budgets, an increase of more than 50 per cent compared with the five years ending this financial year. Japan budgeted US$39.66 billion for defence spending this financial year. Japan has long capped its annual defence spending at about 1 per cent of GDP, with the country relying for decades on protection from the United States’ “nuclear umbrella”. But a poll conducted by Japan’s Yomiuri newspaper last week showed 51 per cent support for the unprecedented increase in defence spending. “The Japanese public has a broad consensus on increasing the defence budget, but controversies remain on reaching the 2 per cent of GDP target by raising taxes ,” said Professor Ken Jimbo, an international security expert at Tokyo’s Keio University. He said China’s rising military power, North Korea’s nuclear and missile programmes, and Russia’s assertiveness in Ukraine had combined to increase Japan’s threat perceptions. Jimbo said increasing the defence budget to 2 per cent of GDP would allow Japan’s Self-Defence Forces to procure new weapons, increase their combat readiness and enhance command and control systems. Should China worry about Japan’s proposed rise in defence spending? China has criticised the budget increase and accused Tokyo of “sensationalising regional tensions in an attempt to seek a military breakthrough”. “This is highly dangerous,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning told a news briefing in Beijing on Tuesday. “It cannot but put Asian neighbours and the international community on high alert about Japan’s commitment to an exclusively defensive policy and to peaceful development.” Cheung Mong, an associate professor at Waseda University in Tokyo who is an expert on Sino-Japanese relations, said Japanese government concerns had been heightened by two recent military simulations with the US that were based on a scenario of simultaneous People’s Liberation Army attacks on Taiwan and the Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea – which are known as the Senkakus in Japan and are less than 200km (124 miles) from Taiwan. “The results of the war games showed the Americans would make Taiwan the top defence priority,” he said, adding that had complicated US-Japan relations because “Japan has its own ideas”. The Ukraine war had encouraged the Japanese government to push on towards late Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe’s goal of making Japan a “normal country” by amending its pacifist post-war constitution, Cheung added. “Japanese elites believed the post-war pacifist constitution would let them focus on domestic economic development, as the US military bore most of the defence responsibility,” he said. “But now the Japanese believe it’s time to arm their SDF.” One of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s goals in the coming decade was to triple the number of SDF units and ballistic missile interceptors on the Okinawa island chain that stretches southwards towards Taiwan, Kyodo reported on Monday. The money would also be used to upgrade the SDF’s Type 12 surface-to-ship missiles by extending their range to more than 1,000km, Nikkei Business Daily reported. They can currently hit targets up to 400km away. Can doubling the military budget make Japan more secure? Earlier Nikkei reports said a plan to deploy hypersonic missiles on the islands by 2030 was also being considered to boost deterrence. Sino-Japanese ties have been strained in the aftermath of a visit to Taiwan by Nancy Pelosi , the speaker of the US House of Representatives, in August. Beijing responded to the visit with unprecedented live-fire drills around Taiwan and five missiles fired by the PLA fell into waters designated by Tokyo as part of Japan’s exclusive economic zone, which Beijing does not recognise. “The PLA’s island blockade missile drills provided Japan with good excuses to extend its missile systems,” said Professor Ni Lexiong, a political scientist at Shanghai University of Political Science and Law. “With a range of more than 1,000km, the Okinawa-based Japanese missile systems will be able to hit almost all the military bases of the PLA’s Eastern Theatre Command on the southeast coast of China.” Cheung said speculation in Japan’s diplomatic and defence circles that the Diaoyus would become a target if the PLA decided to attack Taiwan had increased the Japanese public’s sensitivity to cross-strait tensions. “The Japanese public believe the ownership of the Diaoyu Islands belongs to Tokyo, while many of them even liken a possible PLA attack on Taiwan and the Diaoyus to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine,” he said. Japan plan to raise taxes to fund defence budget ‘dead on arrival’: analysts Zhou Chenming, a researcher at the Beijing-based Yuan Wang military science and technology think tank, said speculation that the PLA would attack the Diaoyus in the event of a Taiwan contingency was based on rumours that revealed a lack of historical knowledge about the two countries’ consensus on the Diaoyus dispute. “The PLA still sticks to Beijing’s long-standing policy in territorial disputes with Japan that was reached by both sides’ leaders in the 1970s – setting aside disputes and pursuing joint development’,” Zhou said, adding that a PLA attack on the Diaoyus in the event of Taiwan contingency would “violate common military strategy because it doesn’t make sense for a fighting force to stretch its battlefront”. “Ukraine is an independent state,” he said. “Taiwan has been defined as a ‘domestic issue’ by Beijing, and China recognises that the Diaoyus is a disputed issue, so there are no common grounds among the three affairs.” Fumiko Sasaki, a specialist in international relations focusing on Asian and Japanese politics at Columbia University in New York, said Japanese public opinion had become more pro-Taiwan because of Taipei’s “progressive democracy” and Beijing’s recent assertiveness in the region. “Regardless of the legal status of Taiwan … the Japanese people support Taiwan and definitely worry about any military conflict between [mainland] China and Taiwan,” she said. Sasaki said Japan’s main concern was “how to avoid getting involved in any military contingency”, and that the recent meeting between President Xi Jinping and Kishida would help build trust. “Such exchanges would definitely relieve the Japanese people, whose ultimate goal is to stay away from any wars,” she said.