Japan will not set a ceiling on defence spending in the next annual budget, in keeping with the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s pledge before the upper house election to ramp up investment in national security. The plan will be confirmed and announced before the end of the month, the Nikkei newspaper reported on Saturday. Significantly, there has been an almost complete absence of objections to the plan by opposition parties, left-leaning media and Japanese society in general, which according to one analyst was a consequence of the conflict in Ukraine , an increasingly aggressive China , the unpredictable regime in North Korea and with Russia also flexing its military muscles in the Far East. Jeff Kingston, director of Asian Studies at the Tokyo campus of Temple University, pointed out that while there was strong resistance to increasing defence outlays whenever the late former leader Shinzo Abe proposed lifting spending to 2 per cent of GDP, current Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has faced no such pushback to similar plans. According to the Nikkei , Japanese governments typically set a maximum ceiling on spending requests submitted by ministries for the next financial year, which starts on April 1. The aim is to stop budget requests from increasing too rapidly and further stressing the nation’s already-stretched finances. All other ministries will be expected to limit their budget demands for fiscal 2023, except the defence ministry. “Kishida has said that a ‘significant increase’ is needed and Abe had been calling for defence spending to be effectively doubled to 2 per cent of GDP, so a large increase was always on the cards,” said Kingston. The exact scale of the increase is still “vague”, he said, but increasing the effectiveness of outlays should be one focus of the spending of the some US$50 billion that Japan presently sets aside every year for defence. Foreign weapons systems and equipment typically cost more than domestically developed variants and will constantly be subject to fluctuating exchange rates. Japan also pays service personnel wages that are comparatively higher than in other nations, as well as larger pensions for retirees, accounting for a higher percentage of the total defence budget than elsewhere. Despite the election debate’s focus on voters’ economic well-being, foreign policy and security played a larger role in the July 10 upper house election, Kingston said, adding that Russia’s Vladimir Putin , Chinese President Xi Jinping and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un , “have together worked to increase anxiety in the Japanese public”. Russia and Japan have been running joint naval and air patrols close to Japanese territory – and, in Tokyo’s estimate, within Japanese waters surrounding the disputed Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea, which Beijing claims sovereignty over. Chinese coastguard overshadows Japanese mayor’s ‘symbolic’ trip to Diaoyus “The Japanese government is almost spoiled for choice in terms of a justification for increasing defence spending,” Kingston said. “But what is interesting is that if Abe had put forward these plans when he was prime minister, there would have been a quick and harsh pushback. “Everything that has happened in Ukraine has really put the liberal left on the back foot and altered that commitment to peace that has long been a part of the national psyche,” he said. “I had expected a more vigorous response, but it has been relatively muted.” A wider realisation of the threat that Japan faces came with the attack on Ukraine, Kingston said, as a Russian invasion of a neighbouring sovereign state was “as unthinkable as a Chinese invasion of Taiwan”. It is widely accepted that the most immediate danger to Japan would be an attack by Beijing against Taiwan , a conflict that Tokyo would inevitably be drawn into, given the self-ruled island’s proximity to the southern Japanese prefecture of Okinawa. As a consequence, much of Japan’s future defence spending is expected to focus on air and naval assets that can be deployed in the far south of the country, including Kyushu and the scattered islands of Okinawa. The militarisation of the region is undeniable, with anti-shipping and surface-to-air missile batteries already deployed on some of the most remote islands. Despite promises that it would never become a military installation when it was originally constructed, consideration is presently being given to turn Shimojishima Airport, on Miyakojima in Okinawa, into a joint civilian-military airbase. “It is clear that Kishida was already planning to boost defence spending, but the assassination of Abe has served to put wind in his sails and even the normally extremely cautious Ministry of Finance is not now raising any objections,” Kingston pointed out.