Photo/Illutration Prime Minister Fumio Kishida meets with reporters March 28 after the budget for fiscal 2023 passed the Diet. (Koichi Ueda)

The budget for fiscal 2023 quietly passed the Diet on March 28 as the opposition benches clamored for answers about the need for record defense spending and Prime Minister Fumio Kishida avoided giving specifics.

The budget came to an all-time high of 114.381 trillion yen ($868 billion), the 11th straight year for a record figure.

This year’s amount represented an increase of 6.784 trillion yen over the initial fiscal 2022 budget, in large part due to the abrupt increase in defense spending.

Kishida suddenly announced in December that defense spending over the coming five years would increase by about 43 trillion yen. Fiscal 2023, which starts April 1, represents the first year of the program.

Opposition lawmakers repeatedly pressed for details, such as why the defense budget had grown so big and how much would go to the capability of striking enemy bases preparing to launch missiles against Japan. Kishida said he could not provide details because that would tip Japan’s hand to those wishing to do it harm.

It was only in late February as the Lower House was preparing to approve the budget that Kishida finally said Japan would purchase 400 Tomahawk cruise missiles with the range to hit enemy missile bases.

The opposition also never got a clear response to other issues it raised during budget deliberations, such as the decision to extend the operating lives of nuclear reactors to 60 years, discriminatory remarks made by a former Kishida executive security about sexual minorities and a claim by Sanae Takaichi, the state minister for economic security, that documents compiled by telecommunications ministry officials had been fabricated.

With a major hurdle for the first half of the ordinary Diet session now behind him, Kishida can concentrate on leading the ruling Liberal Democratic Party to victory in unified local elections and Diet by-elections next month as well as presiding over the Group of Seven summit meeting in May in his home city of Hiroshima.