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EDITORIAL | In 2023 Budget Debate, Opposition Sidesteps Crucial Defense Matters

Opposition members in the Diet wasted time during the 2023 budget deliberations by attacking LDP minister Sanae Takaichi with a discredited document.



2023 budget
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and his Cabinet ministers bow at the plenary session of the House of Councillors after the budget for fiscal 2023 was approved on March 28. (© Sankei by Yasuhiro Yajima)

On March 28, a plenary session of the House of Councillors approved the fiscal year 2023 budget by a majority vote of the ruling party and other parties. It also marked the end of the first half of the current term of the National Diet

This comes after the Kishida Cabinet approved three key security documents in December 2022. They include the National Security Strategy, which, significantly, authorizes a counterstrike capability. We had fully expected the current Diet session to include deliberations on such matters. In particular, we had hoped to see a debate on improving defense deterrence and response capabilities.

However, during House of Councillors budget committee meetings, the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan diverted the focus. It used its efforts to discuss internal administrative documents of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications concerning interpretation of the "political fairness" under the Broadcasting Act. CDP members doggedly questioned Minister of Economic Security Sanae Takaichi, who was telecommunications minister at the time the documents were drafted. It is truly regrettable that, as a result, there was no constructive debate on defense. 

2023 budget
Sanae Takaichi, Minister of State for Economy and Security, raises her hand in response to a question in the House of Councilors Budget Committee on March 28. (© Sankei by Yasuhiro Yajima)

Precious Time Wasted

Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) Diet member Hiroyuki Konishi referred to the documents in question, which he originally made public, as "first-rate administrative documents." He said they proved the administration of then-Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had adopted a distorted interpretation of the Broadcasting Act. Then he used these documents to attack the government.

It is not clear even now, however, who wrote the documents in the first place. It has been proven that the statements in the documents were not confirmed with the alleged speakers. Moreover, they appear to contain inaccuracies. 

Takaichi has consistently maintained that the documents are "fabrications." And Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has declared that the government's interpretation of the Broadcasting Act has remained consistent. 

Kishida has also rebuffed the DPJ's demand that Takaichi resign. That was an easy call considering that no change to the interpretation of the Broadcasting Act has been shown to have taken place. 

2023 budget
The writing on these"hissho shamoji"(rice scoops) translates roughly as"Victory." Photographed in the office of PM Fumio Kishida on March 23. (© Sankei by Tai Ota)

Serious International Threats Entirely Ignored

Much of the precious time for Diet deliberations was spent on efforts to corner Takaichi. There was a lack of concrete discussion on the increasingly tense international situation. That is very worrisome. 

At the end of March, Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Russia and held talks with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin. Xi's trip came just after the International Criminal Court issued a warrant for the arrest of Putin on suspicion of his having perpetrated war crimes in connection with Russia's ongoing invasion of Ukraine. Even so, there was no sense of alarm in the Diet debate concerning the growing ties between these two authoritarian states that are increasingly pursuing a hegemonic course on Japan's borders.


During this same period, Prime Minister Kishida made a sudden trip to Ukraine on March 21. There, he confirmed solidarity with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Discussion in the Diet concerning this visit focused on the merits of presenting Zelenskyy with a hissho shamoji rice scoop. Of course, the rice scoop symbolizes the desire for victory. But there was no in-depth discussion of the key issues, such as how to best support Ukraine.

2023 budget National Security Strategy
Television news reporting the launch of a ballistic missile by North Korea with the image of an earlier launch. November 2, 2022 (Seoul, © Kyodo)

2023 Budget Provides for Defense of Japan

The CDP and other opposition parties have demanded the withdrawal of the key three security documents. And they have expressed skepticism about defense spending, questioning whether ¥43 trillion JPY ($325 billion USD) over five years is really necessary. 

Kishida explained that the 2023 defense budget was compiled based on in-depth discussions within the government. He added, "Increased deterrence and response capabilities will reduce the likelihood of an armed attack [on Japan]." 

The Prime Minister should be commended for his clear answers. 

In the second half of the Diet session, both the ruling and opposition parties alike should show leadership. That requires demonstrating their full awareness of Japan's heavy responsibility as the chairing country of the upcoming G7 Summit.


(Read the editorial in Japanese.)

Author: Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun