The Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and Komeito held a meeting of ruling party policy officers on Nov. 1 and agreed to form a working team on the review of the National Defense Program Guidelines (NDPG) and the Mid-term Defense Buildup Program to be undertaken by the government before the end of this year. An important issue to be discussed by the ruling parties is whether to renovate the destroyer Izumo into a de facto aircraft carrier for takeoff and landing of fighters.
The LDP’s former Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera and Shigeki Sato, chair of Komeito’s research commission on foreign policy and security, will head this new working team. LDP Policy Research Council Chairman Fumio Kishida told reporters that “the ruling parties will come to a common understanding and submit relevant recommendations to the government.”
The NDPG serves as the government’s guidelines for defense capability building for a period of about 10 years, while the Mid-term Defense Buildup Program consists of plans to procure defense equipment and other goods for a five-year period based on the NDPG.
Renovating the deck of the Izumo to enable the takeoff and landing of fighters will significantly broaden the Self-Defense Forces’ (SDF) scope of operation. There is criticism that this contradicts the Japanese government’s repeated explanations that it has “no plans to possess” the capability to attack enemy bases.
Regarding the overall defense spending, the current Mid-term Defense Buildup Program for FY2014-2018 sets overall expenditures at 24.67 trillion yen. The Defense Ministry is arguing that an increase will be inevitable on account of missile defense and the strengthening of air and naval capabilities. The ruling parties’ team will determine the appropriate size of the defense budget, taking into consideration the government’s tight finances.
NDPG topics to be discussed by the ruling parties
— Defense regimes for space, cyberspace, and other new areas
— Pros and cons of capability to attack enemy bases, including Izumo’s renovation
— Securing manpower for the SDF
— Overall defense budget for the next five years
— Strengthening missile defense