Calls grow to enhance Japan’s defense capabilities

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Sanae Takaichi, chair of the Liberal Democratic Party’s Policy Research Council, speaks at an LDP meeting on economic security in December.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has triggered calls in the Japanese government and the ruling Liberal Democratic Party to strengthen the nation’s defense capabilities, with issues to be addressed including such matters as the defense budget and the response to hybrid warfare, in which military and nonmilitary forces are combined.

At a press conference on Tuesday, Sanae Takaichi, chair of the LDP’s Policy Research Council, said: “The amount of the defense budget that can be used for equipment and research is getting very small. The minimum requirement must be increased.”

The nation’s defense spending is usually kept at around 1% of gross domestic product. In last year’s House of Representatives election, the LDP pledged to increase defense spending, eyeing 2% or more. The target of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization is also 2% or more.

Germany has kept its defense spending at just over 1% of GDP in recent years, but after the invasion of Ukraine, it announced a plan to increase spending to 2% or more.

In response to the move, World Expo 2025 minister Kenji Wakamiya tweeted, “We must pursue the ideal form of national defense.”

Russia is utilizing such means as cyber-attacks in its invasion of Ukraine. To strengthen Japan’s ability to deal with both military and non-military threats, the government aims to swiftly establish an economic security law and revise the nation’s three defense-related documents, including the National Security Strategy, which sets forth the basic guidelines of the nation’s security policies.

“The documents must be revised appropriately so that a proper system can be introduced,” Prime Minister Fumio Kishida stressed at a meeting of LDP House of Councillors members Tuesday.

However, Natsuo Yamaguchi, the head of the LDP’s junior coalition partner Komeito, expressed caution at a press conference on Tuesday, saying, “It’s not realistic to make major changes suddenly.”