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LDP panel calls for boost in defense spending, eying NATO’s 2% GDP target

Kyodo

A ruling Liberal Democratic Party panel on Tuesday called for a boost in Japan’s defense budget, which has stayed at around 1 percent of gross domestic product for decades, touching on NATO’s 2 percent target as a “reference.”

The proposal is part of a midterm report on defense issues worked out by the LDP’s Research Commission on Security. The paper will not be submitted immediately to the government, but will be used as a springboard for further discussions in compiling an official proposal by next spring, a senior commission member said.

Touching on North Korea’s rapid nuclear and missile development and China’s maritime assertiveness, the panel said that “a sufficient” defense budget should be secured to deal with the tough security environment based on a judgment of what equipment is necessary.

At the same time, Japan should “refer to” the North Atlantic Treaty Organization target for each member to spend 2 percent of GDP on defense, the report said.

The defense budget has been on the rise since fiscal 2013 under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government and topped ¥5 trillion ($45 billion) in the fiscal 2017 budget for a second-straight year.

But the outlays have stayed at 1 percent of GDP, reflecting the exclusive defense-oriented posture adopted under the pacifist post-World War II Constitution.

U.S. President Donald Trump has urged NATO member states to pay their “fair share” for defense, but so far he has not made a specific request to Japan to increase its share of the cost of hosting U.S. military forces.

Defense Minister Tomomi Inada told a news conference earlier Tuesday that it is “not appropriate to automatically” decide defense spending based on GDP.

She also said defense spending should be decided through consideration of the role Japan plans to play in security issues and what its defense capability should be.

In the report, the LDP also called for accelerated studies on developing a domestic early-warning satellite to detect incoming missiles and enabling the Self-Defense Forces to carry out defensive cyberattacks.

Currently, Japan relies on a U.S. military-operated early-warning satellite system.