The ruling Liberal Democratic Party has pitched its proposals for the new National Defense Program Guidelines and Mid-Term Defense Program, which the government expects to approve in December.
We cannot possibly agree with the proposals, which call for a massive defense buildup despite an unprecedented fiscal crunch, to steer the nation away from its traditional defense-only policy.
Labeling the security environment surrounding Japan as “the most critical in postwar history,” the LDP on May 25 proposed scrapping the 1 percent cap on defense spending against gross national product that has been in place since the 1970s.
The LDP cited NATO’s 2 percent target for member nations “for reference.”
Japan’s defense costs have already bloated to in excess of 5 trillion yen ($46 billion). The LDP’s new position on defense spending essentially raises the figure to upward of 10 trillion yen.
This is irresponsible in the extreme, given the absence of any discussion of funding.
The Abe administration’s special treatment of defense-related matters is now old hat. For the past four years, Japan’s defense spending has kept setting new records. And in March last year, Abe told the Diet unequivocally that he “had no intention” of continuing to adhere to the 1 percent ceiling on defense spending.
We presume the LDP’s motive behind spelling out “2 percent” in its proposal was to bolster and accelerate Abe’s policy. But this proposal itself is anything but realistic.
As for proposals to gain the capability to attack missile bases in hostile countries and introduce an aircraft carrier with multiple uses–apparently with the Maritime Self-Defense Forces’s “Izumo” helicopter carrier in mind–they both overstep the bounds of the nation’s defense-only policy. The LDP also came up with a “cross-domain defense concept” with which to strengthen Japan’s presence in space and cyber technology, in addition to upgrading the capabilities of the Ground, Maritime and Air Self-Defense Forces.
The Abe administration has altered the course set by generations of preceding Cabinets, for instance, by opening the door to participation in collective self-defense under new national security legislation. With U.S. President Donald Trump exerting pressure on Tokyo to purchase American-made weapons, the massive increase in spending proposed by the LDP is bound to further erode Japan’s fabric as a pacifist nation.
But national security is to be enhanced not only by beefing up defense capabilities, but in tandem with diplomatic endeavors to seek detente.
It is true that China’s aggressive maritime advances need to be dealt with. But countering them by force alone will only heighten tensions in the region.
The LDP’s excessive emphasis on North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats as a means to justify a defense buildup is simply not acceptable. In pushing arms expansion while multinational diplomatic efforts are in play to establish peace and stabilization on the Korean Peninsula, the LDP is adopting an outright regressive posture.
For any politician with a sense of awareness of their responsibility for the nation’s future, their obvious duty is to envision and build a strategy that relies on both defense-related and diplomatic initiatives.
And specifically, they must strive to win the support of the public by getting their priorities right in determining policy-by-policy spending programs within budgetary constraints.
But there is not a trace of such wisdom and careful consideration in the LDP proposals.
–The Asahi Shimbun, May 30