Japan Passes Defence-Heavy Draft Budget as AUKUS Rumours Swirl

On Saturday, Japan’s lower house approved a draft budget for the next fiscal year valued at C$1 trillion (112 trillion yen). The revised budget — approved in December but updated following the New Year’s Day Noto Peninsula earthquake — features a record C$72 billion (7.95 trillion yen) in defence spending, a 16 per cent increase year-over-year, and measures to combat inflation, among other expenditures.

Japan’s military spending underscores its growing global role. Since February 2022, Japan has pledged C$16 billion to Ukraine, and on February 19, Tokyo hosted a Ukraine reconstruction conference with more than 130 companies in attendance. On February 25, Japanese forces began the fifth iteration of an exercise with the Indian Army to improve joint operations capabilities. And this week, Japan joined NATO for an annual space defence exercise.

Japan, Canada, and AUKUS

Nikkei reported over the weekend that the U.S. wants Japan to join AUKUS’s non-nuclear pillar on defence technology. Neither Washington nor Tokyo confirmed the report, but Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio and U.S. President Joe Biden may discuss AUKUS when Kishida visits the White House next month. Some experts have advocated for Five Eyes members Canada and New Zealand to join AUKUS’s non-nuclear pillar, but Ottawa has stayed mum on the subject.

Meanwhile, Canada-Japan commercial relations continue to strengthen: this week at Toronto’s annual mining convention, Mitsubishi Corporation, Japan’s largest trading company, announced a C$25-million investment in a project to develop a lithium mine in northwestern Ontario.

Budget a welcome win for Kishida as support slides

Support for Kishida has slumped recently owing to a ‘slush fund’ scandal that saw him become Japan's first incumbent prime minister to appear before a parliamentary ethics committee.

As a result, according to one poll, Kishida’s approval rating now sits at 25 per cent, his lowest rating since he took office in 2021.