Japan's Military Spending at a Crossroads

By Kawasaki, Akira | Asian Perspective, October 1, 2009 | Go to article overview

Japan's Military Spending at a Crossroads


Kawasaki, Akira, Asian Perspective


Japan's military budget has held steady at below one percent of its GDP. Japan spends heavily on personnel for its Self-Defense Forces, support of U.S. bases in Japan, and development of its ballistic missile defense and space development. Yet in recent times, the Japanese business community has also demanded an amendment to Article 9 of the constitution for the promotion of military-civil integrated space development and an end to the ban on arms exports. With the future of Japan's security policy still uncertain after the election of the new Hatoyama administration, innovative disarmament cooperation would better serve the stability of the region than Japan's development of high-tech, offensive military capabilities.

Key words: East Asian security, Japan, military spending

Introduction

In September 2009, a historic political change occurred in Japan, leading to the formation of a coalition government led by the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) with Hatoyama Yukio as prime minister. In the previous month's general election, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), which had ruled Japan consistently since 1955, went down to an overwhelming defeat and was ousted from government. This was the first time in post- World War II Japanese history that a vote by the people brought about a change in government.1

Resistant to change and with a strong desire to avoid confrontation, the LDP and the governmental bureaucracy had gradually become fused in their management of the nation. While many citizens may have had complaints or been dissatisfied with the status quo, this unified ruling structure also seems to have provided a sense of security. So why did the Japanese public reject the LDP in 2009? The serious economic crisis, the resulting social unease, and the failure of the bureaucratic institutions to deal with these crises all played a part in the political upheaval.

From 2001 on, the Koizumi Junichiro administration spent nearly six years pushing neoliberal reform in response to globalization under the name of "structural reform." While earlier administrations made certain moves in this direction, the Koizumi reforms clearly signalled the end of the "Japanese model" whereby the state and corporations jointly provided lifetime security for citizens. With the collapse of this system, one in three workers-or, in the case of young or female workers, more than half-became irregular employees. At the same time, the media repeatedly reported on cases of bureaucrats wasting money or spending state funds for private purposes. The DPJ's success in winning the hearts and minds of the Japanese public stemmed at least in part from its declaration of a "de-bureaucratized rule."

To verify and reduce unnecessary spending within the administration, the new government established the Government Revitalization Unit under the cabinet. In drafting the 2010 budget, which totalled more than 95 trillion yen ($950 billion), the DPJ government has aimed to cut as much as 3 trillion yen ($30 billion) as part of its public reconsideration of each and every government program. It has specifically targeted inefficient public works projects and governmental corporations in collusive relationships with the bureaucracy. As they suffer through the economic crisis, people are watching with great interest the television programs featuring sensationalist denouncements of wasteful bureaucratic expenditure.

But so far, despite all of these efforts to cut spending, the government continues to treat one sector as "untouchable." Japan's military expenditures remain beyond criticism and serious revision.

Japan's Military Budget

In 2009, Japan's military budget was 4.774 trillion yen.2 This represents 0.94 percent of Japan's GDP and 9.2 percent of the central government budget. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), Japan's military spending in 2008 was $46.3 billion, making it the seventh-largest military spender after the United States, China, France, the United Kingdom, Russia, and Germany. …

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