(Tokyo Shimbun: January 15, 2015 – p. 2)
By Masato Nakane, Mikihiko Ueno
Reflecting the Abe administration’s shift away from a strictly defensive policy, such as the authorization of the exercise of the right to collective self-defense, the draft FY2015 budget practically meets all the Defense Ministry’s requests for the procurement of offensive weapons.
Allocations for diplomacy have also been increased, notably for measures to improve Japan’s public diplomacy to communicate Japan’s position on history issues. There are also appropriations that are obviously targeting the history issues or the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa, which may give rise to new tensions with China and the ROK.
The proposed defense budget includes the procurement of military hardware with high offensive capability in line with the cabinet’s decision last July to authorize the exercise of the collective self-defense right.
For island defense, 51.6 billion yen is earmarked for the purchase of five MV-22 Ospreys to transport the new amphibious unit to be created and other Self-Defense Forces (SDF) personnel. They will be stationed at the Saga Airport (in Saga Prefecture). The cost of procuring 30 AAV-7 amphibious vehicles that will be used with the Ospreys in operations to retake occupied islands is also included.
Research funds for the introduction of more Ospreys and assault landing craft capable of carrying amphibious vehicles to further upgrade defense capability are also appropriated.
Pricey military hardware purchases include the procurement of additional state-of-the-art F-35 stealth fighters and building Aegis Ships.
Even though a record defense budget is being proposed for FY2015, the planned equipment purchases will not be paid in a single year. While current fiscal rules call for contracts to be signed for five years at most, the government is planning to resubmit a special measures law to the Diet to allow longer-term contracts.
The increases under the Abe administration will also have to be paid for in the future.
Meanwhile, the Finance Ministry is setting the “disbursing officer’s exchange rate” used for calculating budget allocations for government procurement from foreign countries in FY2015 at 110 yen to a dollar, compared to 97 yen to a dollar in fiscal 2014.
However, the current market rate is around 120 yen to a dollar, which is used when actual transactions are made. As long as the present exchange rate level persists, the cost of weapon procurement will be higher, which will translate into added burdens on the people.
The foreign policy budget is being increased by 2.9% to 685.4 billion yen from the previous fiscal year. Many new projects are evidently targeting China or the ROK.
For example, 2.3 billion yen will be used for “conveying messages on an accurate image of Japan” and “a fundamental improvement in public diplomacy on territorial integrity, history issues, and other major policy issues.” A budget of 7.1 billion yen is also being earmarked to support Japan studies in foreign countries for the purpose of “nurturing pro-Japan scholars and experts on Japan.” These measures are meant to counter lobbying activities by China and the ROK in the Western countries on the comfort women and other issues.
Projects relating to “cooperation for the stability of the international community” and “securing the rule of law” are included in the official development assistance (ODA) budget. “Rule of law” is an expression often used by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to disparage China. The anticipated aid recipients will probably include the Philippines and Vietnam, which are in dispute with China over territorial issues in the South China Sea.
The budget for UN Security Council reform aimed at campaigning for Japan’s permanent membership was increased by 3.1% to 87.1 billion yen. (Slightly abridged)