Japan's largest hike in defence spending is justified: The Yomiuri Shimbun

Soldiers from the Japan Air Self-Defense Force set up PAC-3 surface-to-air missile launch systems during a temporary deployment drill at US Yokota Air Base in Tokyo, on Aug 29, 2017.
Soldiers from the Japan Air Self-Defense Force set up PAC-3 surface-to-air missile launch systems during a temporary deployment drill at US Yokota Air Base in Tokyo, on Aug 29, 2017.PHOTO: AFP

In its editorial on Sept 6, the paper says that with Japan's security environment worsening, efforts should be made to build a defence framework that can swiftly respond to any situation.

TOKYO (THE YOMIURI SHIMBUN/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - In its budgetary requests for fiscal 2018, the Defence Ministry is seeking ¥5.2551 trillion (S$65.4 billion), up 2.5 per cent from the initial budget compiled for the preceding fiscal year.

The figure, which marks a sixth consecutive yearly increase, is the largest of its kind. Japan cannot afford to sit back and watch the current serious international situation. Given this, the increase is reasonable.

As a countermeasure against North Korea's nuclear and ballistic missile development, the ministry has decided to introduce a U.S.-made ground-based Aegis system.

Two such missile defence installations can cover the whole of Japan. Combined with a plan to acquire a new type of Aegis ship-launched interceptor missile, this will remarkably improve the nation's missile defence capability.

In making budgetary requests, the ministry did not indicate the expense of adopting the land-based Aegis system, which costs about ¥80 billion per installation.

This is because a ceiling on the overall framework of outlays for so-called frontal equipment - a major weapons system for combat operations - could be surpassed if the costs for the new Aegis system are clarified, as a result of having already introduced a succession of new types of equipment.

Efforts should be made to properly modulate the budgetary requests by reconsidering the priority of each item in the major weaponry by the start of year-end budget compilations. Probable measures may include cuts in expenses for less urgent policies.

The Chinese military is even more actively conducting activities in areas surrounding Japan.

In late August, six Chinese Air Force bombers flew near the Kii Peninsula for the first time, an incident for which an Air Self-Defence Force plane scrambled. A Chinese Navy frigate sailed in waters near Tsushima island in mid-August, too. Vigilance and surveillance cannot be neglected.

The budgetary requests included the costs for acquiring six state-of-the-art F-35 fighters and for building a new submarine with excellent detection capabilities.

China has been moving forward with a military buildup through massive defence budgets, thereby greatly improving its military abilities and technology. It is indispensable to emphasise budgetary appropriations for new types of equipment so Japan's deterrent power can be maintained.

What is noteworthy is that the ministry is set to begin studying a ground-to-ground missile capable of attacking an enemy that has occupied a remote island and an antiship guided missile with stealth capability.

The study of these weapons is aimed at defending islands. It also seems to indicate the expectation that the missile technology involved will in the future be applied to the development of the ability to strike bases in enemy territory.

It is worrying to note that, in a considerable number of cases, the cost of purchasing equipment from the United States exceeds initial estimates.

The purchase cost for unmanned Global Hawk reconnaissance aircraft is more than 20 per cent greater than estimated.

Starting in fiscal 2019, the ministry was scheduled to deploy three Global Hawk planes one by one. However, it is said that there will be delays in the time for delivery due to an increase in the costs related to the development of components. The ministry should strive to reduce the costs through persistent negotiations with the U.S. side.

In consideration of Japan's fiscal condition, the defence budget should not be allowed to increase without limit.

The point in question is what strategic purchases of equipment should be made, in a manner that strictly assesses their cost-benefit performance. Necessary measures include reconsidering orders for domestically produced equipment, which tends to cost more.

The Yomiuri Shimbun is a member of The Straits Times media partner Asia News Network, an alliance of 23 media entities.