Tokyo’s record defense spending in 2016


The proposed fiscal 2016 Japanese budget’s spending on items related to defense and foreign affairs reflects Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s views on the exercise of “proactive pacifism.”

Defense spending is to surpass 5 trillion yen ($41.5 billion) for the first time in the postwar era, rising 1.5% to 5.05 trillion yen, climbing for a fourth straight year, while official development assistance is rising for the first time in 17 years, says Nikkei Asian Review.

Much of the increase owes to replacing the U.S. Marine Corps’ Futenma air base in Okinawa. This spending is to reach 59.5 billion yen in fiscal 2016, about 35 billion yen more than in the 2015 budget year. By getting construction into full swing, Tokyo wants to give the impression of progress despite opposition from Okinawa’s governor.

Many of Tokyo’s planned arms purchases have joint action by the Self-Defense Forces and U.S. military in mind. These include the KC-46A Pegasus tanker, which can refuel U.S. warplanes in midair — a mission made possible for the SDF by recently enacted national security legislation. The Osprey vertical-takeoff-and-landing aircraft and the E2-D Advanced Hawkeye early warning radar plane are meant for Japanese and U.S. forces to work together in defending outlying islands and thwarting missile attacks, respectively.

The importance that the Abe government attaches to the Japan-U.S. security alliance can be seen in its host-nation spending on American forces. The government seeks a 2.1 billion yen increase in this so-called sympathy budget to 192 billion yen, the most in seven years.

In the previous decade, Junichiro Koizumi’s government made cutbacks to this spending in light of Japan’s other support for the U.S. military, such as refueling of American ships in the Indian Ocean. But under a bilateral agreement, the sympathy budget is supposed to grow by 13.3 billion yen over fiscal 2016-20 compared with fiscal 2011-15.

Cutting host-nation funds when the U.S. is bolstering its presence in Japan — such as by deploying another warship equipped with the Aegis missile defense system to Yokosuka naval base — “would have an impact on Japan-U.S. relations,” a senior Defense Ministry official said.

Money for movie theaters, golf courses and other leisure facilities has already been cut out of the budget. Facilities spending has fallen to about 20 billion yen, one-fifth of its all-time high. Most of what remains are labor, utilities and other hard-to-cut costs, the official said.

Selections from Nikkei Asian Review