TOKYO – Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on March 2 in a committee meeting of the Diet (Japanese parliament) said that he will expand the country’s defense budget to above 1 percent of GDP, pushing past what has previously been seen as the de facto upper limit allowed for military spending.
Abe’s remark is in line with policies of the Trump administration which has urged its allies to increase military spending.
The prime minister made the announcement in response to questions by a supporter, Katayama Toranosuke, co-president of the right-wing Japan Restoration Party, in a House of Councilors Budget Committee meeting.
In 1976, the cabinet headed by Prime Minister Miki Takeo made a decision to set a ceiling on Japan’s defense expenditure at 1 percent of GNP, which had been used to calculate the size of the economy until the mid-1990s. Even after this cabinet decision was revoked in 1987 when Prime Minister Nakasone Yasuhiro was in power, defense spending has basically remained within 1 percent of GDP, with only rare exceptions.
Since taking office in 2012, however, PM Abe has been increasing military spending, reaching a record high of 5.1 trillion yen ($44.5 billion USD) in the 2017 draft budget in defiance of the country’s pacifist constitution. As shown in the joint statement issued after his meeting with Trump at the February Japan-U.S. summit, Abe promised that “Japan will assume larger roles and responsibilities in the alliance.”
PM Abe in the Diet meeting claimed ever-expanding defense expenditures were justified despite the fiscal difficulties they impose. He pointed to the deteriorating security environment in the Asia-Pacific region as a pretext. Abe boasted that the U.S. looks highly upon the ever-increasing expenditures in Japan’s military spending.