An unprecedented election pledge by Japan’s ruling party to double defence spending underscores the nation’s haste to acquire missiles, stealth fighters, drones and other weapons to deter China’s military in the disputed East China Sea.
The Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) included a goal of spending 2% of GDP – about $100 billion – or more on the military for the first time in its policy platform ahead of a national election this month.
Experts don’t expect new Prime Minister Fumio Kishida to double spending anytime soon, given Japan’s debt-saddled public finances and a pandemic-stricken economy. But it is a sign that the pacifist nation could over time abandon a commitment to keep military budgets within 1% of GDP – a number that for decades has eased concern at home and abroad about any revival of the militarism that led Japan into World War Two.
“LDP conservative leaders want the party to give it up,” said Yoichiro Sato, an international relations professor at Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University, referring to the de facto spending cap, which he called “sacrosanct for Japanese liberals.”
“They are setting the direction, that is what conservatives want to do,” he added.