TOKYO — The Japanese government plans to seek more than 700 billion yen ($6.1 billion) in additional funding for defense in the fiscal 2021 supplementary budget, Nikkei has learned.
This will mark the biggest such allocation for defense spending in history in a supplementary budget and will bring the total defense budget for the current fiscal year to around $53 billion — in the same league as Germany and France but still only around a quarter of China’s.
The increase comes as Washington hopes for its ally to boost defense spending. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party pledged to in its campaign platform for the Oct. 31 general election.
With the additional funding, the Ministry of Defense will purchase maritime patrol aircraft, naval mines and other hardware.
The spending request will be finalized this month, following consultations with the ruling coalition. The size of the additional defense budget is roughly 50% greater than the previous record high in the fiscal 2018 supplementary budget.
Equipment initially set for purchase in the fiscal 2022 budget request will be brought forward, signaling a sense of urgency to the U.S. It is highly unusual for Japan to buy new equipment with money from a supplementary budget.
More than 60% of Japan’s defense budget usually goes toward members’ pay and maintenance costs for existing assets, such as warships. Less than 20% is used for new equipment.
Analysts in Washington have urged Tokyo to play a bigger role in the defense of the Indo-Pacific, including a response to a possible Taiwan crisis. In the LDP leadership race, hawkish candidate Sanae Takaichi, now the party’s policy chief, proposed roughly doubling the nation’s defense spending to 2% of gross domestic product, in line with Western countries. Such a doubling would need roughly $45 billion more in annual spending.
After the Oct. 31 election, Natsuo Yamaguchi, the leader of LDP coalition partner Komeito, expressed reservations about an immediate increase. Yamaguchi said that while he is open to raising the defense budget, “I don’t think a sudden doubling will win the understanding of the public.”
When then-Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga visited Washington to meet with U.S. President Joe Biden in April, the two leaders issued a joint statement in which the Japanese side “resolved to bolster its own national defense capabilities to further strengthen the Alliance and regional security.”
The additional defense spending will be only one part of the supplementary budget. Kishida’s government is set to approve Friday a record 55.7 trillion yen stimulus package to speed the economy’s recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.