Sat, Dec 22, 2018 - Page 1 News List

Japan to increase defense spending to ward off China

AFP, TOKYO

Japan’s defense budget is to swell to a record US$47 billion for the next fiscal year, the government said yesterday, as Tokyo beefs up its missile defense and deploys stealth jets in a bid to counter China.

The defense spending was part of a US$912 billion national budget for the fiscal year starting in April that was approved by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Cabinet.

The government decided to set aside ¥5.26 trillion (US$47.3 billion) for defense, the fifth record year in a row, Japanese Ministry of Defense officials said.

The defense funding is to cover the cost of introducing the US military’s Aegis Ashore land-based missile interceptor system, the officials said.

The allocation also covers six Lockheed Martin F-35A stealth jets and part of it would be spent on Japan’s first aircraft carriers since World War II.

The budget is the initial allocation of Japan’s new five-year defense plan, announced on Tuesday as the latest in a series of steps under Abe to boost the nation’s military.

Under the program that ends in March 2024, Japan is to upgrade two existing helicopter carriers so that they can launch fighter jets.

Abe’s government has argued that the efforts are necessary given growing defense challenges in the region, including tensions with North Korea, and particularly “strong concerns” about the expansion of China’s military footprint.

However, the move is controversial, with critics arguing that it shifts Tokyo further away from its commitment to strictly defensive capabilities under Japan’s post-World War II pacifist constitution.

Beijing immediately expressed its “strong dissatisfaction and opposition” to the program unveiled on Tuesday, urging Tokyo “to adhere to a purely defensive policy.”

Separately yesterday, Japanese Minister of Defense Takeshi Iwaya “strongly protested” to Seoul after a South Korean destroyer locked its targeting radar on a Japanese surveillance airplane.

Iwaya told reporters that the incident was an “extremely dangerous act that could cause an unexpected situation.”

There was no immediate reaction from Seoul.

Fire control radar is used to pinpoint the location of a target for ordnance. Directing the radar at a target can be considered a step away from actual firing.

The destroyer directed the radar at a Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force P-1 patrol aircraft, which was conducting surveillance off the Noto Peninsula in the Sea of Japan, at about 3pm on Thursday, Iwaya said.

Additional reporting by Reuters

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