Gov’t failure to explain Japan’s major defence policy shift is irresponsible
Despite the fact that Japan is embarking on a major shift in its defence policy, the government is trying to make it a done deal without squarely confronting concerns. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s stance is extremely irresponsible.
Japan has passed a budget for fiscal 2023 that includes a record 6.788 trillion yen (about $51.06 billion) in defence spending. Based on three security documents including the National Security Strategy that were revised last year, the government plans to double related budgets to 2% of gross domestic product (GDP) by fiscal 2027.
The security environment surrounding Japan is becoming increasingly severe due to destabilization of the state of affairs in the Taiwan Strait among other issues.
During deliberations in the Diet, however, Prime Minister Kishida made no attempt to provide an in-depth explanation regarding Japan’s defence capabilities. He merely read out the three documents and other material and did not properly answer questions.
Japan’s possession of counterstrike capabilities enabling it to attack enemy missile bases has been called into question over the policy’s incompatibility with the nation’s exclusive defence policy that it has firmly adhered to in the postwar era. It could change the division of roles under which Japan has relied on the U.S. military for striking power as a “spear” while its Self-Defence Forces have focused on protecting the people of Japan, serving as a “shield.”
If integration with the U.S. military accelerates, it will heighten the risk of Japan being drawn into confrontations between the U.S. and China. Kishida stated that Japan would “no longer be completely reliant on U.S. striking power” but at the same time asserted that counterstrike capabilities were “capabilities regarding the shield to protect Japan.”
The use of counterstrike capabilities could be seen as a pre-emptive strike, which is banned under international law. Yet the government refused to even provide specific examples on when it would take such moves. Meanwhile, it has not disclosed how it will use the U.S.-made Tomahawk missiles it is introducing at a cost of over 200 billion yen.
On top of this, the government has been vague about its measures to secure financial resources for the increase in defence spending, and has not disclosed when it would increase taxes with a view to achieving the target of 2% of GDP. It says it will cover the amount by combining gains from the sale of national assets, but this is nowhere near a stable supply.
Many doubts remain unresolved. It is impermissible for Kishida to act as if he has been given carte blanche due to the passing of the budget.
Opposition parties have not sufficiently pursued the matter either. As this is a significant policy change, the issue should be thoroughly inspected.
How should the prime minister go about drawing up a comprehensive strategy to protect the safety of the public, including diplomacy and the economy? The ruling and opposition parties must deepen their debate in the Diet.