Govt. to create special budget category to develop air, sea ports for defense purposes

The Yomiuri Shimbun
The head of a fisheries association talks about the facilities at Kubura Port in Yonaguni, Okinawa Prefecture, on Tuesday.

The government is poised to create a special category in the budget to develop public infrastructure such as air and sea ports for defense purposes, according to government sources.

The category is expected to be included in the defense budget, which the government aims to increase to at least 2% of the nation’s gross domestic product in five years.

The government hopes to develop air and sea ports on islands in the Nansei chain, where civilian evacuations and the deployment of Self-Defense Force units are expected to be required in the event of an emergency, according to sources.

Air and sea port developments are often managed by the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry, but there is said to be a lack of awareness regarding security issues in such developments.

The creation of the special category is part of the government’s efforts to enhance defense capabilities. The funds are expected to be used to expand runways and deepen sea ports so SDF aircraft and vessels can access them.

The government plans to improve facilities nationwide, but special emphasis will be placed on islands in the Nansei chain, which would require a swift deployment of SDF units to enhance defense and protect residents in the event of an emergency in Taiwan.

Naha Airport on the main island of Okinawa and Shimojishima Airport in Miyakojima in Okinawa Prefecture are the only two airports in the Nansei chain with 3,000-meter runways that can be accessed by all types of SDF aircraft.

Japan’s westernmost island Yonaguni, which is only about 110 kilometers from Taiwan, has no ports accessible by large Maritime Self-Defense Force vessels.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida aims to drastically strengthen Japan’s defense capabilities by increasing defense-related spending to 2% of GDP in five years.

To achieve this target, the government is expected to include the special category for infrastructure development, defense-related research and development, and the Japan Coast Guard budget in the defense-related budget on top of largely increasing the defense budget.

The government is considering establishing cross-ministerial councils to reflect the Defense Ministry’s requests and opinions regarding the use of the budget for public infrastructure projects, and research and development.

A council on public infrastructure development will involve the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry, and a council on research and development will include the Cabinet Office and Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry and the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry. The Cabinet Secretariat and the Defense Ministry are expected to take part in both councils.

Kishida eyes expansion of emergency shelters

The government is planning to strengthen civil protection measures, including the development of shelters, in the nation’s new National Security Strategy, taking into account Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The development of emergency evacuation shelters has been conspicuously lacking in recent years.

“We will work hard [on shelters] as we accelerate discussions on the formulation of the National Security Strategy and other measures,” Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said at a plenary session of the House of Representatives on Oct. 6.

Under the Civil Protection Law, prefectural governors and mayors of government ordinance-designated cities are required to designate evacuation facilities that can be used by residents in the event of an emergency.

There are 94,125 such evacuation facilities nationwide, but only 1,278 (1.36%) are underground shelters that are expected to be highly effective in the event of an emergency.

The government has not designated any facilities that could serve as shelters in the event of a nuclear attack.

An example of such a facility in the West is Kyiv’s Arsenalna Station, which is about 105 meters underground and is believed to have been designed to function as a nuclear shelter.

There have been growing calls for the development of underground shelters on islands in the Nansei chain, which spans the prefectures of Kyushu and Okinawa. There are only six designated underground facilities in Okinawa Prefecture, and they are all on the main island.

The government is considering developing shelters on the Okinawa Prefecture islands of Ishigaki and Yonaguni, which are close to Taiwan, because it believes they would be at risk of missile attacks in the event of an emergency.

The government has included ¥70 million for a study to develop shelters in its initial budget request for fiscal 2023.

The government plans to study overseas facilities when it launches preparations for the development of such shelters next fiscal year.