Feeling less secure, Japan’s Defense Ministry requests record budget

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
The Prime Minister’s Office in Tokyo

The Defense Ministry has requested a record ¥5.594 trillion budget for fiscal 2023, up 3.6% from this fiscal year’s initial budget, amid the nation’s deteriorating security environment.

Overall, the Finance Ministry received requests from ministries and agencies totalling over ¥110 trillion for the fiscal year starting April 1. Wednesday was the deadline to submit requests for the initial general account budget.

The total request is just barely below the record ¥111.655 trillion for fiscal 2022.

The initial budget for this fiscal year came to a record ¥107.596 trillion, but as the Defense Ministry was among the ministries and agencies allowed to make unspecified budget requests, the fiscal 2023 initial budget is expected to blow past that mark.

Japan is facing higher security risks as North Korea is progressing with its nuclear and missile development programs, and China’s actions have led to fears of a potential invasion of Taiwan.

The Liberal Democratic Party, of which Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is the president, has been calling on the government to achieve a level of defense spending on par with NATO within five years. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, of which Japan is not a member, has a guideline for member nations to spend at least 2% of their gross domestic product on defense.

The Defense Ministry requested spending for about 100 items without specifying the amounts, so many officials in the government and ruling camp believe that defense expenditures will likely exceed ¥6 trillion when the budget is compiled.

The ministry requested ¥27.2 billion for improving the Type 12 surface-to-ship missile to extend its range to 1,000 kilometers. The aim is to use it as a type of standoff missile to launch counterattacks against enemy targets from beyond the enemy’s missile range. The ministry also requested funds for mass-producing the upgraded version from fiscal 2023, but did not specify the amount.

Another unspecified Defense Ministry budget request was for research on hypersonic guided missiles that can fly at Mach 5 or faster. The acquisition of combat drones and possession of self-destructing drones as well as research on unmanned vehicles that can detect the location of an enemy are also part of the unspecified budget requests.

To improve capabilities in the domain of space, the ministry also requested allocations for manufacturing and testing satellites to monitor the operations of other countries’ satellites, but did not specify any amounts.

The largest budget request was made by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry at ¥33.264 trillion, which accounted for about 30% of the total requested.

Of the figure, ¥31.269 trillion was intended to be allocated for pensions and medical care, up by about ¥530 billion from the initial budget for fiscal 2022. As for spending related to Kishida’s signature “new form of capitalism” policy, the ministry also requested ¥110.1 billion to invest in human resources, such as for developing digitally savvy personnel.

The Economy, Trade, and Industry Ministry made a request for promoting the introduction of renewable energy, while the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry made a request for supporting research and development of the 6G telecommunications standard.