2023年6月30日金曜日

ABOUT 80% IN JAPAN OPPOSE TAX HIKE PLAN TO COVER DEFENSE OUTLAY: POLL

ABOUT 80% IN JAPAN OPPOSE TAX HIKE PLAN TO COVER DEFENSE OUTLAY: POLL

@Jackie San


, JAPAN: A total of 80 percent of respondents to a Kyodo News poll said they are against possible tax hikes to finance Japan's substantial defense buildup plan, despite an overwhelming majority expressing concern about China potentially taking military action against Taiwan, the survey showed Saturday.


The poll, carried out by mail from March to April, showed that while the Japanese public sees a need to boost the country's defense capabilities to some extent due to a deteriorating security environment, they are reluctant about increasing defense spending considerably or financing them through taxes.


In the survey, only 19 percent showed support for Prime Minister Fumio Kishida's call to finance a portion of defense spending by taxes, with the government deciding in December to boost defense spending by more than 50 percent to 43 trillion yen in five years from fiscal 2023.


In a major shift in security policy for a country that maintains a pacifist postwar Constitution, the government has set itself the goal of bringing the annual defense budget and related expenses to 2 percent of gross domestic product by fiscal 2027.


Nearly 60 percent said the five-year defense buildup plan was "not appropriate," while 88 percent said Kishida's explanation regarding drastically enhancing Japan's defense is "not sufficient."


When asked about their main reason for disapproving of the tax hikes to cover the rise in defense spending, the largest group of 48 percent said it was "because the public cannot bear further tax burdens."


On the possibility of China taking military action in a bid to unify Taiwan, a self-ruled island that Beijing views as its territory, with the mainland, 53 percent of the respondents said they are "extremely concerned" and 36 percent said they are "concerned somewhat."


Asked about potential desirable responses in the event of a Taiwan contingency, 56 percent, the largest group, preferred that Japan engage in diplomatic efforts and non-military measures, such as imposing economic sanctions.


The second largest group, at 33 percent, was those who said Japan should provide logistical support to the United States, its key security ally, that could step in to defend the democratic island against a possible Chinese invasion.


The survey, which focused on national security issues, targeted 3,000 men and women in Japan aged 18 and over. The questionnaire was sent on March 7 and 2,043 responses were received by April 17, of which 1,959 were considered valid.


A total of 61 percent said they support Japan's decision to acquire so-called counterstrike capabilities that can hit targets inside an adversary's territory, which the government says will enhance deterrence. But 36 percent were against obtaining the technology.


The majority approving Japan developing the new capabilities apparently represents a recognition of an increasingly severe security environment amid China's military rise, North Korea's missile and nuclear weapon development and Russia's war on Ukraine.


Nearly 60 percent said possessing counterstrike capabilities would contribute to an arms race with neighboring countries, and 53 percent said obtaining the capabilities would make the country's exclusively defense-oriented policy a dead letter or, if they had to choose, said they would decide for it to be so.


Regarding the country's strict regulations on exporting defense equipment, 20 percent backed a plan considered by the government to embargo exports of lethal weapons, while the largest group at 54 percent said the exports should be limited to non-lethal areas.


Talks began inside Japan's ruling coalition parties in late April to review the rules, as calls grow for the Asian country to play a bigger role in the global security arena at a time when major Western countries are providing military aid to Ukraine.


Meanwhile, the survey showed that 76 percent did not know at all or were not much aware of Japan's new national security strategy and related documents approved in December, which included the plan to obtain counterstrike capabilities and boost its defense spending.


The result indicates Kishida may need to make more efforts to communicate with the public so as to win their support for the new defense policies, including the tax hikes.


On the Group of Seven countries' summit, to be held in Hiroshima in western Japan later this month, respondents were split over whether the gathering would contribute to increased momentum for a world without nuclear weapons -- a vision Kishida has been pitching.

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@Jackie San

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