In a series analyzing the issues being discussed during the campaign for the Oct. 31 general election, Sunday’s Nikkei took up Japan’s defense budget, saying that although the LDP has suggested an increase in defense spending from the current 1% of GDP to 2% in its election platform, it has failed to deepen discussion on the matter.
The paper asserted that calls from the United States for Japan to boost its defense spending have been growing due to changes in the military balance in East Asia as a result of the sevenfold increase in China’s defense spending over the past 20 years. The paper wrote that Rahm Emanuel, President Biden’s pick for the next U.S. Ambassador to Japan, said at his Senate confirmation hearing on Oct. 20, the day after the campaign for the general election started in Japan, that an increase in Japan’s defense spending is critically important for the U.S.-Japan alliance. Noting that former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and Harvard emeritus professor Joseph Nye said at a symposium co-hosted by Nikkei and the Center for Strategic and International Studies on Friday that an increase in Japan’s defense spending would be “healthy” and “a very good idea,” the paper expressed the view that these statements reflect the United States’ expectations for Japan to increase its defense spending despite a lack of urgency for discussions on the matter in Japan.
According to the Ministry of Defense, Japan’s defense spending per capita in fiscal 2020 was about 40,000 yen ($352) compared with 220,00 yen ($1,762) in the United States, 120,000 yen ($1,057) in South Korea and Australia, 80,000 yen ($705) in Germany, and 90,000 yen ($793) in the UK. However, the paper wrote that it may be difficult for the GOJ to immediately secure the necessary funding to beef up the nation’s defense capabilities because spending for social security and government bond redemption takes up more than half of all government spending and limits the amount of money available for other spending. The paper wrote that it will be necessary for the nation to drastically review its budget allocations.