Japan aims to boost defense budget, cut welfare spending

January 28, 2013

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN

The government plans to increase spending on defense in fiscal 2013 for the first time in 11 years, reflecting a priority on security set by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

A draft budget proposed Jan. 27 would hike spending on defense from the next fiscal year by 40 billion yen ($440 million) and cut welfare benefits by 67 billion yen, reflecting Abe's call for greater "self-help" in the field of social security.

The government drafted the 92.61 trillion yen ($1 trillion) general account budget after final consultations between ministers and Finance Minister Taro Aso.

If approved, it would see defense spending increased to 4.75 trillion yen on equipment, personnel and operations by the Self-Defense Forces.

It would see the recruitment of an additional 287 personnel. The SDF currently number 228,000 troops, despite an official target strength of 247,000.

It would be the first rise in eight years, reversing an overall decline. The National Defense Program Guidelines currently call for payroll cuts. The guidelines are to be reviewed.

Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said the additional recruits would specifically help to boost defense capabilities in areas where Chinese vessels and aircraft have mounted incursions into Japanese waters and airspace near the disputed Senkaku Islands.

"We will be able to fulfill a need for manpower in early-warning and surveillance in the southwestern region," he said Jan. 27, addressing reporters after meeting with Aso.

The extra spending would also allow the SDF to meet maintenance and preparation costs for aircraft for additional surveillance and response.

It would also fund a study into equipping SDF troops with U.S.-made Osprey transport aircraft, which are currently being used at U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Ginowan, Okinawa Prefecture, by U.S. troops.

The budget draft additionally calls for improved capabilities to deal with future natural disasters striking Japan and to face the threat of additional missile launches from North Korea.

However, even if passed, the increase in spending would be a significant shortfall from the 120 billion yen requested by the Defense Ministry--which was curtailed by the Finance Ministry.

The total budget for the Japan Coast Guard would stand at 176.5 billion yen in fiscal 2013, 36.4 billion yen of which is earmarked for the protection of Japanese territory, a rise of 40 percent from fiscal 2012.

The extra cash would, in part, allow the Japan Coast Guard to commission additional patrol vessels and establish a dedicated Senkakus unit.

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
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Ground Self-Defense Force helicopters coming in to land (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

Ground Self-Defense Force helicopters coming in to land (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

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  • Ground Self-Defense Force helicopters coming in to land (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
  • A warship of the Maritime Self-Defense Force. This destroyer, Akizuki, is considered to be one of the most advanced in the fleet. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
  • An F-2 fighter jet of the Air Self-Defense Force (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

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