Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida aims to boost the country's defense budget to about 43 trillion yen ($318 billion) from fiscal 2023 to fiscal 2027, an over 50 percent increase from its current five-year spending plan, ministers said Monday.
The figure is up from around 27.47 trillion yen that Japan had originally planned for five years through the fiscal year from April 2023, in view of the deteriorating regional security environment amid mounting security threats from China and North Korea.
At the prime minister's office on Monday, Kishida held talks about the defense budget with Finance Minister Shunichi Suzuki and Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada.
Kishida's decision came as his Liberal Democratic Party has set a goal of doubling Japan's defense spending to 2 percent or more of gross domestic product -- a level on a par with North Atlantic Treaty Organization member states -- over the next five years.
Japan has long capped its annual defense budget at around 1 percent of GDP, or more than 5 trillion yen, while holding an exclusively self-defense-oriented security policy position under its war-renouncing Constitution.
For the next five years, the government would be forced to come up with measures to secure stable financial sources, given that Japan's fiscal health is the worst among major industrialized economies, with public debt more than twice the size of GDP.
Concerns may also grow that Japan's rapid defense budget rise might irritate its neighbors, such as China and North Korea, as Beijing has been expanding its military clout in the Asia-Pacific region and Pyongyang has been pursuing its missile and nuclear ambitions.
As for defense spending for the five years through fiscal 2027, Japan's Defense Ministry had pressed for about 48 trillion yen, while the Finance Ministry had said it should be kept below some 35 trillion yen, according to government sources.
Many LDP lawmakers, meanwhile, have argued that over 40 trillion yen should be allocated to strengthening Japan's defense capability.
The planned defense spending is expected to be mentioned in the government's five-year defense program, which specifies development plans and necessary expenses, when it is updated by the end of this year. The current program covers fiscal years 2019 to 2023.
The government also plans to set up a new framework for nondefense costs worth about 2 trillion yen that would contribute to enhancing defense systems, such as the budget for the Japan Coast Guard and public infrastructure, the sources said.
Unlike NATO members, Japan's defense budget does not include costs for the coast guard and others.
By overhauling revenue sources, Japan will try to ensure the defense budget, a government source said, adding the nation will first make efforts to slash other budget items while avoiding imposing further financial burdens on consumers and companies.
The Kishida administration is expected to update the five-year defense program along with two other defense-related documents including the National Security Strategy, and is scheduled to compile the initial budget for fiscal 2023 by the end of this year.