The government has begun to consider reviewing the current National Defense Program Guidelines (NDPG), which cover the period up to the second half of the 2020s. It is envisioning advancing the NDPG review in conjunction with the formulation of the next Medium-Term Defense Program (for FY2019-2023) on the procurement of equipment in response to the growing military threats from North Korea and China. However, the current NDPG was drafted in late 2013, so a hasty review may incur criticism that the previous guidelines were based on an overoptimistic assessment of the situation.
The NDPG is a strategic document that deals with the desired level and forms of defense capabilities for the next decade or so. The main concept behind the current document is a “Dynamic Joint Defense Force” for seamless response to attacks on remote islands or ballistic missile attacks.
The Ministry of Defense (MOD) plans to form a committee to study the introduction of new ballistic missile defense (BMD) systems shortly and would like to allocate funds for procurement under the next Medium-Term Defense Program if possible. It is also considering creating a new “permanent joint command headquarters.” Since these will require revisions to the NDPG, the MOD plans to work on the review along with discussions on the Medium-Term Defense Program.
U.S. President Donald Trump has been advocating an increase in U.S. allies’ share of expenses for stationing U.S. Forces, but his security policy remains unclear. The PHP Research Institute issued a report earlier this month recommending that instead of increasing contributions to U.S. Forces Japan’s expenditures, Japan should increase its defense budget and invest more in such areas as cybersecurity. The Liberal Democratic Party Research Commission on Security will also create a working group to discuss reinforcement of defense capabilities. However, there is also an opinion in the government that it is possible to deal with this matter for now through partial revisions to the NDPG with cabinet decisions. A final decision will be made on the review depending on the Trump administration’s defense policy. (Slightly abridged)