With the Upper House election campaign moving into the final stage, discussions on national security, a top priority issue, are losing steam. Amid rising prices, the opposition parties are focusing more on campaigning about measures to reduce the burden on business owners and individuals in order to win votes. After the election campaign entered the second half, Prime Minister Kishida Fumio, too, rarely talked about strengthening the nation’s defense capabilities in his stump speeches. As issues that are being debated in the election campaign are turning more inward-looking, attention is being paid to what judgement voters will make.
On July 7, Democratic Party for the People (DPFP) leader Tamaki Yuichiro was giving a stump speech in front of Tokyo Station, stressing that “we cannot defend Japan if we don’t have the will and ability to do so.” But he devoted most of his time to the economy.
Kishida has also toned down his rhetoric on national security. In the first round of the campaign period, he was vocal about national security policy. On June 24 in Yokohama, he called for “reviewing” the national security strategy,” which will be upgraded at the year end, to “see whether it is sufficient to protect people’s lives and livelihoods.”
But since he returned from his overseas trip, he has not used the word “defense” in his campaign speeches. The government will begin debate on the “drastic strengthening of defense capabilities” after the election, but as prices keep rising, “it is hard to bring up this topic,” said a lawmaker who specializes in defense affairs and lobbies on behalf of the defense industry.
Komeito Party leader Yamaguchi Natsuo talked about the nation’s defense only when he appeared in a TV program on June 27, saying that “[defense spending] should be in principle financed by taxes [because] government bonds later turn into debts.”
Seeing through the ruling camp’s subdued tone on this topic, Japanese Communist Party leader Shii Kazuo, at a press conference held on June 27, criticized the government’s “promise to foreign countries that Japan would increase defense spending without offering an explanation to the Japanese people.” Social Democratic Party chief Fukushima Mizuho also criticized the government on July 3, saying, “Why is it that the government does not discuss financial sources?”
Meanwhile, Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Innovation Party) head Matsui Ichiro noted in a July 3 TV debate program that [the possession of] “a nuclear-powered submarine would substantially boost the nation’s defense capabilities.” Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan representative Izumi Kenta stressed in a July 4 campaign speech delivered in Tokyo that “there are things that should be done from the viewpoint of the people” and proposed setting up shelters [for the vulnerable]. Reiwa Shinsengumi called for “maintaining an exclusively defense-oriented policy and building trust with Japan’s neighbors.” The NHK Party stressed the promotion of “debate on nuclear sharing and nuclear armament.”
Japan’s defense policy will reach a turning point after the Upper House election, but it is hard to say that the topic has become a hotly debated issue in the election campaign. (Slightly abridged)