Japan plans record ¥770 billion defense spending in extra budget

Japan plans to allocate at least ¥770 billion ($6.74 billion) for defense in a supplementary budget expected to be announced along with an economic stimulus package on Friday.

That amount — the most for defense in a supplementary budget — would dwarf the ¥430 billion earmarked in an extra budget in fiscal 2019, and would include outlays for strengthening Japan’s defense capabilities near the southwestern islands.

The extra budget will include costs to buy missiles, mines and torpedoes and expenses related to patrol planes, transport aircraft and other core equipment that were initially included in the Defense Ministry’s budget request for fiscal 2022.

Japan has long committed to keeping its military budgets within 1% of GDP, a number that has long eased concern at home and abroad about any revival of the militarism that led Japan into World War II.

But with concern growing about China’s military in the disputed East China Sea, Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) included a goal of spending 2% of GDP or more on the military in its policy platform ahead of an election held on Oct. 31 — a sign that things might be changing.

The United States has been pushing key allies to spend more on defense and public sentiment in Japan has shown signs of shifting away from concerns about rearming to growing alarm over China’s military assertiveness in Asia, particularly toward Taiwan.

In a joint statement following a summit between former Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and U.S. President Joe Biden in April, Japan pledged to “bolster its own national defense capabilities.”

The government will treat defense spending in the fiscal 2021 supplementary budget and the fiscal 2022 regular budget together as a package for accelerating defense capability enhancement, in order to fulfill its pledge to the United States, sources said.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s government is expected to announce a record ¥55.7 trillion stimulus package on Friday to help the country recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, the Nikkei business daily reported on Thursday.

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