Govt must Inform Public on Factors behind Need for Large Defense Budget

The security environment surrounding Japan is becoming increasingly severe. The government must explain this fact thoroughly to the people and bring about deeper understanding of its defense policies.

In the fiscal 2021 budget proposal, defense spending increased by 0.5% from the initial budget of fiscal 2020, to ¥5.3422 trillion. This defense spending is the largest ever, and marks the ninth straight year of increase.

China spends nearly four times more than Japan’s defense budget to build up its military. North Korea’s missile development remains a threat. It is essential to steadily enhance the nation’s defense capabilities.

In the budget proposal, the government focused on enhancing capabilities in the new defense domains of space, cyber and the electromagnetic spectrum as well as on the development of new types of missiles with a view to island defense.

In the space field, the government earmarked a total of ¥65.9 billion for such matters as designing monitoring satellites. The government plans to spend ¥30.1 billion on cyber-related matters, including the establishment of a joint cyber unit of the Ground, Maritime and Air Self-Defense Forces.

Information obtained through satellites and cyberspace networks is indispensable for the operation of vessels and fighter planes. It is understandable that the government aims to enhance these protection capabilities.

As for missile development, the government earmarked ¥33.5 billion to extend the range of domestically produced surface-to-ship missiles.

The government hopes to deploy the new missiles in five years as standoff missiles that can be launched from outside the range of the enemy. It said that they will stop enemy attacks from a distance and ensure the safety of Self-Defense Forces personnel.

A long-range missile could be a means of attack capability against enemy bases. However, the Cabinet of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has ruled out such a use. The government also postponed discussions on the possibility of possessing offensive capabilities.

Having the option of attacking enemy bases with Japanese missiles would lead to improved deterrence. As long as the budget is allocated for new equipment, it is necessary to clarify its purpose. The government should not turn its back on the discussion of offensive capabilities.

It is inevitable to spend a certain amount of budget on the purchase of cutting-edge equipment and research and development, but it is troublesome to increase defense spending without limit.

In recent years, the Defense Ministry has been purchasing equipment through supplementary budgets. In its third supplementary budget of fiscal 2020, it secured ¥386.7 billion for such equipment as patrol planes and submarines.

In the midterm defense program decided in 2018, the government has set the total defense spending for the five years starting in fiscal 2019 at ¥27.47 trillion. The defense budget should be allocated within this framework in a planned manner.

The SDF is also tasked with serving in such affairs as disaster relief and treatment of people infected with the novel coronavirus. It is important to expand public support for the SDF through various activities, while giving priority to national defense.

— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on Dec. 30, 2020.