About 80% of respondents to a recent poll in Japan opposed possible tax hikes to finance the country’s substantial defense buildup plan, despite an overwhelming majority being concerned about potential Chinese military action against Taiwan.
The poll, carried out by mail in March-April by the local Kyodo news agency, suggests that Japanese public opinion is reluctant to raise defense spending through taxes, though most are in favor of beefing up the country’s defense capabilities amid a volatile security environment.
Focusing on national security issues, the survey was sent to 3,000 adult men and women in Japan.
Just 19% gave their nod to Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s call to finance a portion of rising defense spending by taxes after a more-than-50% expenditure hike in December to 43 trillion yen ($319 billion) in five years starting in fiscal 2023.
In a major shift in security policy for a country that maintains a pacifist postwar Constitution, Japan has set itself the goal of bringing its annual defense budget and related expenses to 2% of gross domestic product by the 2027 fiscal year.
Around 60% of respondents to the survey said the five-year defense buildup plan was “not appropriate,” while 88% said Kishida’s explanation for the scheme was “not sufficient.”
Nearly half, or 48%, said the reason they did not approve of further tax hikes was that the public “cannot bear further tax burdens.”
On the possibility of China taking military action against Taiwan, 53% said they were “extremely concerned” and 36% that they were “somewhat concerned.”
Beijing sees Taiwan as its own territory, while Taipei has insisted on its independence since 1949, enjoying full diplomatic relations with 13 nations.
Asked about possible responses, 56% said they preferred that Japan engage in diplomatic efforts and non-military measures, such as economic sanctions.
About 33%, however, said Japan should provide logistical support to the US, its key security ally, that could step in to defend the democratic island against a possible Chinese invasion.
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