When Prime Minister Fumio Kishida pledged to double Japan’s defense spending within five years last December, most long-time observers of Japanese politics were doubtful that he could honor it.
After all, where was the administration going to find an extra ¥4 trillion in the budget? More than that, how would he justify such dramatic increases when the Japanese economy was still stagnating and the consumer price index rising — all the while, with a snap election looming? As a practical matter, it seemed implausible; as a political one, it appeared downright impossible.
Last Friday, Kishida confirmed those doubts when he gave three key pieces of guidance to senior officials in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party. He informed them that they were to develop legislation for income tax cuts, as well as benefits to low-income earners; that these measures should be decided by the end of November for springtime implementation; and that tax hikes meant to cover increased defense spending would be postponed until at least 2025.