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Japanese officials working to increase defense spending

Tokyo, May 25 (Jiji Press)–Japanese government and ruling coalition officials are working to substantially boost defense spending after Prime Minister Fumio Kishida pledged to do so during a summit with U.S. President Joe Biden in Tokyo Monday.

Kishida thinks that Japan’s security environment has grown increasingly challenging due to threats from China, Russia and North Korea.

His pledge was also influenced by public opinion surveys showing that the majority of Japanese people back an increase in defense spending, sources close to the prime minister said.

At a parliamentary meeting on Wednesday, Kishida said, “We, first of all, need to draw up a list of things needed to protect the lives and the livelihoods of the people.” He added, “We will secure a sufficient budget” to dramatically strengthen the country’s defense capabilities.

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party last month said that Japan should aim to achieve a necessary defense budget within the next five years, noting that NATO member countries are committed to spending the equivalent of 2 pct of gross domestic product on defense.

Japan’s defense budget totals 5.4 trillion yen in fiscal 2022, which started last month, accounting for less than 1 pct of the country’s GDP.

On Monday, former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe suggested that the defense budget should be within the upper 6-trillion-yen range for fiscal 2023.

Komeito, the LDP’s junior coalition partner, on Wednesday expressed understanding for increased defense spending.

“There is something close to a common recognition among the people” that Japan should increase its defense spending, Komeito policy chief Yuzuru Takeuchi told reporters, adding that the increase was “inevitable.”

A senior Komeito official suggested that it would not be wise for the party to oppose increased defense spending as the Japanese Communist Party does, ahead of a House of Councillors election this summer.

Komeito, however, plans to scrutinize an actual spending plan as a party pushing for peace. In its proposal submitted to the government Wednesday, the party said that defense spending should be limited to a minimum necessary.

Another obstacle for increased defense spending is funding. The Fiscal System Council, which advises Japan’s finance minister, on Wednesday warned that “there are no clever schemes or shortcuts” to fund such spending. It pointed out that some NATO members are discussing increasing defense spending and government revenues at the same time.

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