DON’T LET FINANCIAL BUREAUCRACY DICTATE JAPAN’S DEFENSE SPENDING
The international situation can change in a flash. NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organization) has just started its annual nuclear exercises, with 14 of its 30 members participating, including the US. Some 60 aircraft of various types will fly over northwestern Europe—including Belgium, the North Sea, and the UK—during the two-week drills ending on October 30. Described as “Operation Steadfast Noon” as part of its regular programs, they are clearly aimed at maintaining NATO’s advanced nuclear deterrence capabilities in light of mounting fears of a nuclear conflict with Russia. The atomic attack exercises will be conducted without live ammunition.
Russia is also planning to conduct its “regular” nuclear exercises. Aware of Russia’s intentions, NATO has repeatedly warned Russia that its army would be “annihilated” if Moscow uses nuclear weapons in Ukraine.
The use of nuclear weapons is taking on an eerie reality. No nation can ignore this huge upheaval in the international situation. That is why every nation is desperately exploring effective countermeasures. What about Japan? While listening to deliberations at a session of the Lower House Finance Committee on October 17, I could not help but seriously wonder if Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is cognizant of his responsibility to protect Japan and its citizens.
Questions from opposition party representatives were mostly unproductive and meaningless, as they centered around matters relating to the Unification Church. But Koichi Hagiuda, Chairman of the Policy Research Council of the ruling Liberal-Democratic Party (LDP), hit the nail on the head.
Hagiuda pointed out during a previous session that China on August 4 launched five ballistic missiles into Japan’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) off Yonaguni Island, 111 kilometers (70 miles) east of Taiwan, during the military drills it staged to prepare for a possible invasion of the self-governing island. Noting that the Chinese action proved the correctness of former prime minister Shinzo Abe’s observation that an attack on Taiwan would be an attack on Japan, Hagiuda queried how committed Kishida is to Japan having
“Mr. Prime Minister, I wish to point out what Japan needs now is not words only but specific deterrence capabilities. I am of the opinion that Japan will be able to deter missile attacks by unambiguously demonstrating our readiness to strike back if we are attacked. I am convinced that developing the required deterrence early is a sure way to safeguard Japan’s peace and protect the lives and livelihoods of our citizens.” After a lengthy explanation of the background, Kishida remarked:
“At this stage, the government is accelerating the consideration of what is truly needed to protect the lives and livelihoods of our citizens by investigating all options, including the deterrence capabilities you just pointed out. We are doing our utmost to make our decisions by the end of the year by taking into account every option available.” Kishida gave a long answer but failed to indicate how determined he is to deliver the goods. Another stumbling block for the government has been the 2023 defense budget. The LDP has pledged to increase the nation’s defense outlay by at least 2% of Japan’s GDP over the next five years. To that end, the government has started exploring how to fund the proposed increase by hosting a conference designed to “comprehensively consider our defense capability” on September 30.
Soviet-Imposed Article 25 of Japan Coast Guard Law
One cannot help but have a nagging suspicion that, in its zeal to attach excessive importance to minimizing the national budget deficit, the conference may be trying to create an appearance of increasing the nation’s defense budget by merely incorporating the Japan Coast Guard (JCG) budget into that of the Defense Ministry.
Hagiuda asked Kishida point-blank:
“Mr. Prime Minister, do you think that such a ‘make believe’ budgetary increase would do? With a made-up ‘increase’ like that, I frankly don’t think the government will be able to protect the lives and property of the Japanese people.”
“Japan is geographically close to Russia, which invaded Ukraine on February 24. North Korea has kept up its nuclear and missile program despite mounting international sanctions. And China has boosted its military spending 40 fold over the past three decades. I have long stated that even an increase of our defense budget by 2% of our GDP would not be good enough to safeguard the lives and peaceful livelihoods of our people. That said, we must have the political will to at least meet that objective. I would like for the prime minister to clarify how determined you are to achieve that goal.”
Kishida concluded yet another long-winded reply by stating:
“I am of the opinion that Japan requires a wide range of capabilities in such areas as equipment, economy, technology, and the JCD in order to comprehensively safeguard the lives and livelihoods of the Japanese people. We will accelerate discussions on our overall defense capabilities and the financial sources to back the proposed budget increase.”
Kishida has actually approved the Finance Ministry’s plan to follow the NATO method in incorporating the JCG budget into its own. But the JCG will not be able to play a role with the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Forces (JMSDF) if the present situation were to continue. In point of fact, NATO allows each member to incorporate its coast guard budget into the overall national defense budget only when it has “received military training and is equipped as a military force capable of operating under military command during military deployment.”
It is globally taken for granted that the coast guard plays a part in national defense as part of a nation’s armed forces—except in Japan. Article 25 of the Japanese Coast Guard Law stipulates: “Nothing contained in this Law shall be construed to permit the Japan Coast Guard or its personnel to be trained or organized as a military establishment or to function as such.”
Fumio Ota, former Chief of Information Headquarters of the Defense Agency (upgraded to the Defense Ministry in 2007 under the Abe administration), explained that Lt. Col. Kuzma Derevyanko, the Soviet representative on the Allied Council for Japan—which was an advisory body to the General Headquarters of the Allied Forces (GHQ) during the Occupation—strongly insisted in 1946 that this article be inserted. Ohta now serves as a research fellow at the Japan Institute for National Fundamentals (JINF), a privately-financed public and foreign policy think tank I head in Tokyo.
The JCG has since honored Article 25 like a bible, according to Ohta. If Kishida is considering incorporating the JCG budget into the Finance Ministry’s by heeding the advice of the conference which obviously operates under the influence of the ministry, he must first abolish this Soviet-imposed article and take steps to have the JCG meet the NATO standards as a military unit. But Ohta pointed out that the JCG and the JMSDF will not be able to cooperate with each other even if the law should be revised. He gave two reasons:
Don’t Entrust Finance Bureaucrats with Nation’s Future
1) JCG patrol boats are equipped with 13-14 mm machine guns, but those aboard JMSDF, US Navy, and US Coast Guard patrol boats are 20mm multi-barrel machine guns; and 2) JCG patrol boats are equipped with diesel engines and powered by heavy fuel oil and regular light oil, while major vessels operated by the JMSDF, the US Navy, and the US Coast Guard are propelled by a combination of Lm2500 gas turbines and diesel engines. Incompatible with the JMSDF, the US Navy, or the US Coast Guard, the JCG would have a difficult time cooperating with them in an armed conflict.
Ohta pointed out an even more serious defect of the JCG:
“The JMSDF, the US Navy, and the US Coast Guard can smoothly cooperate with each other real time as they use the same command, control, communication, and computer systems connected to multiple data links. Employing an entirely different mechanism, it will be impossible for the JCT to enter their network.
In light of this critical difference, Hagiuda asked Defense Minister Seiichi Hamada this important question during the budget committee session: “In the so-called ‘armed attack situations,’ I understand you are legally authorized to put the JCT under your ministry’s control. Have you conducted drills in the past with such control in mind? Have there been joint exercises conducted between the JCG and the JMSDF to enable mutual cooperation in armed attack situations?”
“No. Rules enabling the defense minister to put the JCG under his control have yet to be established. Also, no joint drills have been conducted in anticipation of possible armed attack situations.”
In spite of this harsh reality Japan is faced with, are Financial Ministry bureaucrats maneuvering to incorporate the \261.8 billion (US$1.8 billion) JCG budget into their ministry’s annual budget going forward just to numerically increase the nation’s total defense budget? An increase of slightly more than \1 trillion (US$6.9 billion) over each of the next five years would be necessary to double the defense budget to roughly \10 trillion (US$ 69 billion, or some 2% of GDP) by 2027. The JCG budget would account for more than a quarter of the total, if it is to be incorporated into the national defense budget. That would be an increase only on paper.
I wish to urge Prime Minister Kishida to earnestly reflect on the seriousness of the security environment confronting Japan. Our people are wishing to be told above all else how committed our leader is to fulfilling his responsibility in implementing an effective national defense and protecting their lives and livelihoods. It will be irresponsible of Kishida if he is thinking of leaving Japan’s future to the financial bureaucrats, failing to come to grips with perhaps the world’s severest security environment, with Japan encircled by China, North Korea, and Russia.
(Translated from “Renaissance Japan” column no. 1,021 in the October 27, 2022 issue of The Weekly Shincho)