The ruling Liberal Democratic Party has for the first time included a policy in its election manifesto of aiming to double the country’s defense budget to 2% of gross domestic product. Heavy-hitters in the government — including new Prime Minister Fumio Kishida — have effectively backed the push. The move also comes as concerns about China’s military ambitions continue to grow among the public.
But despite the government’s repeated mantra that dealing with the region’s “increasingly fraught security environment” requires dramatically boosting Japan’s defense budget and shedding its informal spending cap of 1% of GDP, most analysts believe there is little appetite for a quick shift in that direction.
“I don't see 2% as feasible. Going from what it is now to 2% is just unrealistic,” said Jeffrey Hornung, a senior political scientist at the Rand Corp., pointing to unease within the LDP's junior coalition partner, Komeito, and challenges in gaining public acceptance as Japan attempts to kick-start its pandemic-hit economy.