Leadership: Death By Kokusanka


June 10, 2010:  Japan’s current strategy for developing defensive weapons is failing. Since World War II, the Japanese Defense Ministry has adopted the philosophy of “kokusanka”, self-reliance for arms production.  Throughout the late 20th century, Japan’s defense industry had bolstered the abilities of Japan’s Self-Defense Forces. Japanese firms were not only acquiring foreign licenses to develop weapons, but they were also developing their own exclusive weapons. By the 1980s, Japan had many modern weapons including their own built versions of the SH-60 Seahawk, the F-15 Eagle, and the Type 74 tank. 

However, with the recent decline of Japan’s defense budget, Japan’s strategy of self reliance is no longer working. According to a 2009 report from Japan’s Ministry of Defense, 13 firms associated with developing equipment for Japan’s Ground Self-Defense firms went broke. Also, 35 companies withdrew from defense contracting. Japan’s military budget has been decreasing for seven consecutive years. The Japanese defense budget has decreased by $50.4 billion between 2002 and 2010. 

These decreasing costs are significantly hurting Japan’s defense industry. Japan’s economy already suffered with the 2008-2009 economic meltdown. Japanese firms cannot stay afloat in difficult times when their available work shrinks. On top of that, Japan’s procurement fell more than a quarter to 17.5 percent in between 2002 and 2010. Since Japanese laws forbid the export of any military weapons, Japanese defense firms cannot make up their shrinking profits. 

Japan’s defense industry is also suffering because it is unable to produce equipment at economical cost. For example, a 120mm battalion mortar costs $600,000 ; this is above market price by at least $100,000. Also, Japan’s Type 90 tank costs approximately $7.4 million as opposed to the US’s M1A1 Abram’s which costs $6.21 million (the Type 90 has slightly more engine power than the M1A1).  Lastly, Japan’s F-2 fighter costs $108 million while the US’s F-16E/F costs $26.9 million . The F-2 design was based off the F-16. These examples show how inefficient Japan’s defense industry is; they cannot produce arms at economical prices. 

With these current trends, Japan needs to adjust its defense industry. Defense firms are not profiting or even lasting in the Japanese market. With a shrinking budget, defense firms in Japan are forced to sell their weapons at incredibly high prices. Japanese firms have developed powerful technologies that could be exported for a substantial amount of funds. The idea of “kokushanka” may appeal to many Japanese officials, but it does not fit into Japan’s current interests. --By Bret Perry



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