Thu, Jan 10, 2013 - Page 6 News List

Japan to spend an extra US$2.1bn on defense

REGIONAL RISK:The boost to the defense budget was spurred by rising territorial tensions with China and the recent alarming North Korean missile tests, officials said

AFP, TOKYO

Japan plans to spend an extra ¥180.5 billion (US$2.1 billion) on missiles, fighter jets and helicopters, an official said yesterday, as it tries to strengthen its defense amid growing concerns over a rising China and an unpredictable North Korea.

The cash injection over the next few months comes on top of regular military spending for this and next year. It is separate from a request for a rise in the military budget for the next fiscal year that policymakers called for on Tuesday.

“We will request ¥180.5 billion to be allocated to military spending from a stimulus package,” a Japanese Ministry of Defense spokesman told reporters, adding that some of the money would be used to buy PAC-3 surface-to-air anti-ballistic missile systems and modernize four F-15 fighter jets.

The request for funds must be approved by the Japanese Ministry of Finance before being officially included in the stimulus Tokyo is set to announce later this month, reportedly worth ¥13.1 trillion for this fiscal year to March.

The announcement came a day after Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party said Japan would increase military spending for the first time in 11 years in the next fiscal year starting in April.

Confrontations with China have become commonplace since Tokyo nationalized three islets in the disputed Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台) — which Japan calls the Senkakus — in September. Taiwan also contests the islands.

The move sparked furious protests and China and Beijing has sent vessels to the area dozens of times since — most recently on Monday.

“Out of ¥180.5 billion, the defense ministry plans to use ¥60.5 billion to prepare for the changing security environment surrounding Japan,” the spokesman said.

The remainder of the cash is expected to be used for updates of existing equipment.

The defense ministry wants to buy three SH-60K patrol helicopters and add a battery for an intermediate-range ballistic missile system, he said.

“We need to update our equipment as the security environment surrounding Japan is becoming harsher as North Korea has test-launched missiles twice in the last year and tensions with China continue,” he said.

The Sankei Shimbun reported yesterday that the number of Chinese military planes nearing Japanese territory had increased since Japan nationalized the three islands. The paper said Japan’s air force had begun studying the possibility of allowing the firing of warning shots.

Defense officials could not immediately confirm the report.

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