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Politics & Security

EDITORIAL | Defense Debate at National Diet Should Be About Protecting People

The National Diet should not confine the discussion to sources of funding for expanded defense outlays, but include how to elevate Japan's deterrence power.

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National Diet
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida delivers his 2023 policy speech at the plenary session of the House of Councillors at the plenary session of the House of Councillors on January 23. (© Sankei by Yasuhiro Yajima)

The 2023 ordinary session of Japan's National Diet convened on January 23. On the opening day of the 150-day session, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida stated in a policy speech that Japan stood "again at a watershed moment in history."

Russia's invasion of Ukraine, a grave challenge to international order, is continuing. China, for its part, is poised to conquer Taiwan while refusing to rule out the use of military force. Meanwhile, North Korea has been busy developing its nuclear and missile programs.

National Diet
PM Kishida departs for Europe and then North America on January 8, 2023. (© Kyodo)

Kishida's Roles Extremely Weighty

In this profoundly important year marking a crossroads moment in history, Japan is assuming the presidency of the G7 group of industrial democracies, and taking a seat as a nonpermanent member on the United Nations Security Council. The responsibilities the Prime Minister is taking on are extremely weighty. 

Acknowledging the moment, PM Kishida declared in his speech, "With strong determination we must work to create a new global order suitable to the new age." He added, "We are determined to lead the world" in taking on this challenge. His remarks manifested Japan's determination to play a leading role in formulating a new international order and we commend them.

It was also helpful that the Prime Minister raised his defense policy near the beginning of his speech. It was mentioned among the basic policies his administration is following. Previously, defense matters were often positioned in the latter part of his policy speeches.

National Diet
Prime Minister Kishida delivers his policy speech before the House of Councillors on January 23. (© Sankei by Yasuhiro Yajima)

3 Key National Security Documents

In December 2022, the government announced the Cabinet's approval of three key national security documents, including the National Security Strategy. Incorporated into the Cabinet decision were acquisition of enemy base counterstrike capabilities to deter attacks and a substantial increase in defense spending. 

This is a major shift in government policies and can safely be called a turning point of historic significance. The change was conveyed to US President Joe Biden during the Prime Minister's recent visit to Washington. In the summit the two leaders concurred on the need for redoubling efforts to boost deterrence and response capabilities in the event of contingencies. 

Unless measures for beefing up defense capabilities are implemented, the lives and safety of the people cannot be protected. It is a reality that international relations have worsened to that extent. Therefore, it is important that the Prime Minister explains these matters in a detailed, convincing manner through the debate in the Diet.

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National Diet defense spending
Kenta Izumi, leader of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, needs to talk about how to better defend Japan. (© Sankei by Yasuhiro Yajima)

How to Defend the Nation Must Be Discussed

It would be a grave mistake for both the ruling coalition and opposition parties to confine the discussion to sources of funding for expanded defense outlays. Instead they should discuss how to elevate Japan's deterrence power from a broader perspective.

Moreover, the fate of the country is not limited to strengthening defenses. Take energy policy, to cite one case. Energy supplies, the very basis of the nation's prosperity, are in jeopardy in the wake of Russia's war of aggression on Ukraine. 

Prime Minister Kishida must also gain public understanding of the nuclear energy issue by explaining in depth the government policy on utilizing nuclear energy facilities. 

Constitutional Revision a Must

An unsatisfactory point in the Prime Minister's speech concerns the issue of revising the Constitution. He acknowledged that the task is a "job that cannot be delayed any longer." However, he confined himself to simply saying, "I have high expectations for seeing the debate [on constitutional revision] deepened further."

Strengthening defense capabilities and constitutional revision are inextricably linked. Prime Minister Kishida should exercise strong leadership in formulating a draft constitutional amendment without delay.

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(Read the editorial in Japanese.)

Author: Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun 

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