TOKYO, Japan: During a televised debate with eight political leaders prior to the national elections on 31st October, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida called for an increase in Japan's military spending, in response to what he described as growing threats from China and North Korea.
The party leaders also talked about how to ensure the recovery of Japan's pandemic-hit economy and respond to any future COVID-19 surges.
Kishida, head of the governing Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), was selected prime minister earlier this month and called for the October election to be ensured a public mandate for his leadership and policies.
Kishida stressed that Japan's security situation has changed significantly, noting North Korea likely possesses several hundred missiles capable of reaching Japan, which must consider gaining the ability to strike back, but in line with international law.
As Japan's constitution strictly limits the use of force to self-defense, such a policy is considered controversial, but Kishida responded, "We have to prepare for realistic possibilities to protect our people and discuss a wide range of options."
Separately on Monday, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno also proposed stepping up Japan's missile defense capability, in response to China's reported testing of a supersonic missile in August.
Kishida has not explained how he would gain support from the pacifist Komeito party, his coalition partners. Komeito's leader, Natsuo Yamaguchi, has questioned the LDP's plan to double the defense budget funding to 2 percent of the budget.
Mizuho Fukushima, head of the Social Democratic Party of Japan, which is in partnership with the Constitutional Democratic Party, was the only woman in the debate.