The cabinet approved the allocation of a record 773.8 billion yen to the fiscal 2021 supplementary budget for the procurement of defense equipment. The funds had been originally been tagged for the fiscal 2022 budget, but the allocation was moved forward to address Japan’s rapidly deteriorating security environment. Thorough and detailed explanations for including this expenditure in a supplementary budget must be provided to the public.
Customarily, supplementary budgets include defense spending needed for equipment maintenance and disaster-response measures. This time, however, spending requests were made to enhance the capabilities of Patriot Advanced Capability 3 (PAC3) surface-to-air guided missiles and to procure P1 patrol aircraft and C2 transport aircraft. Spending on such equipment will total 281.8 billion yen.
The government explains that this allocation is part of its efforts to strengthen defense of the Nansei Islands and missile defense capabilities with an eye on China and North Korea, which have been building up their militaries.
The total amount of money allocated to defense in FY 2021 overall, including that in the initial budget, will reach about 6.1 trillion yen. The Ministry of Defense says that this accounts for 1.09% of Japan’s gross domestic product (GDP) and explains that the allocation of defense spending in the supplementary budget is important because necessary equipment can be delivered faster by frontloading procurement plans and this will help strengthen Japan’s national defense.
The joint statement issued at the April Japan-U.S. summit stated that Japan “resolved to bolster its own national defense capabilities.” This probably led to inclusion of defense spending in the supplementary budget. Japan must be fully prepared against threats, but whether the allocation of this defense spending fits the concept of supplementary budgets, which are compiled to address emergencies, needs to be carefully examined.
Necessary equipment must be procured. In principle, this should be requested in the initial budget so that the allocation of money can be fully examined and deliberated at the Diet. With a supplementary budget, it might be difficult to gain a comprehensive view of the matter. Moreover, the allocation may not be considered thoroughly. A certain level of flexibility is needed in the compilation of budgets, but allocating huge amounts of money in a supplementary budget should not become routine.
Japan’s defense budget will likely increase, but national security has not yet been discussed at sufficient depth. Moreover, this is an area generally outside the people’s view. Therefore, the Diet should to hold discussions that look at the reality of Japan’s defense, and the debate should include the FY 2022 initial budget, which will be compiled at the end of this year.
China and North Korea are enhancing their weaponry capabilities at an extraordinary pace. One example is hypersonic weapons, which are difficult to intercept with the existing missile defense system. It takes time to deploy equipment, so a medium- to long-term vision is needed. We must avoid the situation where, by the time the new defense system is in place, the equipment is outdated and the money spent, wasted.
Japan will review its national security strategy by the end of next year, and the government needs to move forward quickly with the necessary discussions. Regional stability cannot be achieved through Japan’s effort alone. Japan needs to have an overall vision of how it will strengthen its deterrence based on the Japan-U.S. alliance and then procure the equipment that will be of true use in ensuring Japan’s security.