Record-high defense budget causes concern over Japan's future
People's Daily Online
By Li Yan (People's Daily Online) 13:04, December 24, 2016
On Dec. 22, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's cabinet approved a record-high budget of 5.13 trillion yen ($43.6 billion) for defense spending in 2017, up 1.4 percent from 2016. The hike has caused widespread concern among both media and the Japanese people.
The budget mandates increased defense spending for the fifth straight year, since Abe took office in 2012. It also shows Abe's desire to confront China, analysts noted. According to the budget, Japan's Coast Guard will increase security around the Diaoyu Islands with a record 210 billion yen, lifting the number of patrol ships to 142 by 2020 and adding 118 more Coast Guard employees, according to the Kyodo News, the leading news agency in Japan.
Part of the budget will also be allocated to beef up security around Okinawa Prefecture and the islands in the southwest of the country. In addition to constructing a new type of submarine, Japan will continue developing its land-to-sea missiles, boosting its ability to handle warships.
Various international media outlets have commented that the budget is part of a plan to confront China. Bloomberg said Japan's cabinet approved a record-setting defense budget of just over 5 trillion yen ($42.5 billion) for the year starting in April, as tensions with China were simmering over disputed islands in the East China Sea. Agence France Press said on Dec. 22 that the budget increase shows Abe's hawkish desire to strengthen Japan's military force, as it confronts China over the disputed Diaoyu Islands and remains on constant alert against North Korea, which has conducted two underground nuclear tests and more than 20 missile launches this year.
Japan has diverted its focus of safeguarding the north to the southwest, which means it will strengthen mobile forces like osprey aircraft, naval vessels, amphibious equipment and mobile missile forces, according to a Reuters report.
In contrast to the defense budget hike, the social security budget is up only 500 billion yen, which has upset Japan's opposition party. Renho, chief of the main opposition Democratic Party, said ordinary people may feel that the government has increased its defense budget for five straight years but left its citizens without satisfactory medical care and pensions. The Abe administration was also criticized by the chief of the Japanese Communist Party, who bemoaned the effect of "Abenomics" on ordinary people.
A social security bill to fund the cost of services for an ageing population is already putting pressure on Japan's economy, and the extra defense spending will add to Japan's debt, according to a BBC report. Japan economic journal Nikon Keizai Shimbun said that while areas such as social security are struggling with their budgets, the unchallenged expansion of the defense budget is only becoming more blatant.
In addition, Japanese netizens criticized the Abe administration for using loans to plan the budget. Some said the future of Japan is gloomy, and the real intention of Abe's administration is to expand the defense budget and cause tension, taking provocative actions while simultaneously pretending to be under threat.
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