Japan's ruling Party asks Prime Minister to double defense spending

Japan's ruling Party asks Prime Minister to double defense spending

TOKYO Kyodo - Japan's Liberal Democratic Party asked Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Wednesday to consider doubling the country's defense budget to an amount of 2 percent or more of its gross domestic product, citing the region's increasingly complex and severe security environment.

A set of proposals finalized by the ruling party last week calling for the development of counter-strike abilities by the Self-Defense Forces will serve as a basis for the government to update the National Security Strategy by the end of the year.

The LDP's proposal to allow Japan to fire and disable enemy missiles before launch from foreign territory and target command centers remains controversial, because the country has long held an exclusively self-defense oriented security policy position under its war-renouncing Constitution.

The first revision of the long-term security guideline, which was originally approved by the Cabinet in late 2013, will come amid China's growing military assertiveness in the region, possibly emboldened by Russia's invasion of Ukraine and North Korea's increasing missile and nuclear threat.

Russia is attempting to invade Ukraine. In a situation that can be the greatest current crisis for the international community, we need to strengthen Japan's defence capabilities, Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi said after receiving the proposals earlier in the day.

With the defense spending target of more than 2 percent of GDP for North Atlantic Treaty Organization nations in mind, the ruling party, led by Kishida, said Japan should aim to increase its spending to reach a level necessary to strengthen defense capabilities in five years. Japan, which has capped its defense budget at around 1 percent of GDP, needs to secure almost 11 trillion yen $86 billion annually to be spent on national security, twice as much as a record 5.4 trillion yen set aside for the current fiscal year to March 2023 on an initial budget basis to meet the target.

Some senior LDP lawmakers have suggested that the 2 percent target should be treated as an indicator rather than an ultimate goal, with Toshimitsu Motegi, secretary general of the party, saying Tuesday that Japan should secure a defense budget of roughly 6.5 trillion yen for the next fiscal year.

The LDP also called for the relaxation of restrictions on arms exports in the recommendations submitted to the government.

The LDP moved away from using enemy base strike capabilities in its wording regarding the proposal to obtain counterattack capabilities.

The switch from that expression was made in response to the public concern that Japan could be seen as departing from its defense-oriented security policy in pursuit of the ability to make a preemptive strike.

The change in wording is part of the LDP's efforts to appease its junior coalition partner, Komeito, which has been anxious about any possible misunderstanding and cautious of acquiring counterstrike capabilities with a House of Councillors election this summer.

The two parties won't engage in intensive discussions on how to amend Japan's security strategy until the upper house election, despite the submission of the proposals to the government.