防衛予算 将来見据えて削減に歯止めを

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Oct. 26, 2012)
Stop defense budget cuts, keep eye on future
防衛予算 将来見据えて削減に歯止めを(10月25日付・読売社説)

Improvement of defense capabilities cannot be achieved overnight. It is time to stop slashing defense-related spending and start strengthening the Self-Defense Forces in earnest with an eye to Japan's security environment five to 10 years from now.

The Defense Ministry has requested 4,585.1 billion yen in budget appropriations for next fiscal year, down 1.3 percent from the previous fiscal year. Is it all right for the defense budget in fiscal 2013 to fall for the 11th year in a row?

If part of a request for budget appropriations from the special account for reconstruction from the Great East Japan Earthquake is included, the defense budget will mark an increase from the previous fiscal year. However, that includes funds to restore damaged defense-related facilities and equipment.

The defense budget in the initial fiscal 2012 budget dropped by about 300 billion yen from its peak in fiscal 2002. The total decline over the past 10 years comes to as much as 1.8 trillion yen.

Defense spending cuts have caused many problems. The maintenance costs currently necessary to extend the life of ships and aircraft exceed the cost of procuring new equipment, causing equipment procurement to be delayed and the defense industry to decline. Twenty percent of SDF facilities are obsolete, aged 50 years or older.


Russia and China bulking up

The fact that Russia and China increased their defense spending by 5.3 times and 3.4 times, respectively, over the past 10 years cannot be overlooked. While countries such as the United States, South Korea and Australia have increased their defense spending substantially, only Japan has cut it, due to financial difficulty and other reasons.

In particular, vigilance must be exercised regarding the Chinese military's buildup of its equipment and expansion of its activities.

In September, an aircraft carrier was commissioned into the navy of the People's Liberation Army. On Oct. 16, seven Chinese naval vessels passed through the contiguous zone near Yonagunijima island. On Oct. 19, Chinese naval ships staged joint exercises with vessels from the State Oceanic Administration and other organizations in the East China Sea on the premise of trouble around the Senkaku Islands.

In light of China's recent high-handed attitude over the Senkakus, the nation must be prepared for Beijing to expand its activities to make its presence felt in the medium and long terms.

The Maritime Self-Defense Force and the Air Self-Defense Force have strengthened their vigilance and surveillance activities against the Chinese military. However, because patrol planes stationed in Okinawa Prefecture are insufficient, the MSDF and ASDF are only able to engage in those activities by redeploying resources from other parts of the country.

China's defense spending is currently more than 50 percent greater than that of Japan. If its defense spending continues to increase at the current pace, this gap will widen to 500 percent 10 years from now. The situation is extremely grave.


Make SDF bigger, more dynamic

It is essential to use the defense budget efficiently and review the SDF's current setup. To prioritize a buildup of "dynamic defense capabilities" in the southwestern region of the country, it is necessary to further reduce the number of Ground Self-Defense Force personnel, garrisons, tanks and artillery in other areas, mainly Hokkaido.

Since the end of the Cold War, Japan has beefed up Japan-U.S. defense cooperation by continually improving defense capabilities with a focus on quality rather than quantity. But from now on, Japan must seriously consider reinforcing the SDF while giving consideration to its quantity as well.

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said he will protect the nation's territorial land and sea "with unwavering resolve." He should reflect that resolve in the budget.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 25, 2012)
(2012年10月25日02時03分  読売新聞)

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