(Asahi: December 20, 2015 – p. 1)
By Isamu Nikaido, Takeshi Narabe
The government decided on a defense budget of 5.05 trillion yen in the fiscal 2016 draft budget. The defense budget will now have increased for four consecutive years since the inauguration of the second Abe administration. The amount will exceed 5 trillion yen for the first time. The budget has swollen on account of the procurement of defense equipment to counter China’s maritime advancement and major construction for relocating the U.S. military’s Futenma Air Station to Henoko in Nago City in Okinawa Prefecture.
The amount will exceed the previous record high of 4.9801 trillion yen for fiscal 2015, an increase of over 70 billion yen. Although the defense budget had been declining from a peak in fiscal 2002, it has been increasing under the Abe administration.
Fiscal 2016 is the first year of the government’s plan to restore fiscal soundness. The administration will try to keep the overall increase of the entire budget under 100 billion yen for the next three years except for social security costs. The room for increase will be limited, with most of the increase going toward the Defense budget for fiscal 2016. This will affect other outlays including that for education.
One of the reasons for the swollen Defense budget is beefing up the monitoring of the East China Sea including the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture. The government will earmark money for the purchase of Global Hawks. The Global Hawk is an unmanned surveillance aircraft. The administration will also procure four Ospreys to enhance the deployment capability in the event of islands being captured by foreign militaries. The passage of the security legislation will enable the Self-Defense Forces to refuel U.S. military aircraft. Under the circumstances, the government will procure the KC46A, the new air refueling aircraft. Many of the new purchases are American made. The weak yen is a factor for the swollen procurement costs.
The cost of the realignment of the U.S. military grew by more than 30 billion yen beginning in fiscal 2015. This includes the cost for relocating the U.S. military Futenma Air Station to Henoko and the U.S. Marine Corps unit from Okinawa to Guam. Besides this increase, Japan’s portion of the cost of stationing the U.S. Forces Japan (the “sympathy budget”) after fiscal 2016 will increase by 13.3 billion yen over the past five years. This was decided after the Japanese side yielded to U.S. pressure.