The Japanese Ministry of Defense is seeking an annual budget increase that would add to past hikes to expand military spending over a decade by almost one-sixth, as it looks to counter the growing strength of China.
Since last year, Japan has identified China as its main national security threat, pointing in a July policy paper to a “sense of crisis” over Beijing’s threat to Taiwan, which is close to Japanese islands along the edge of the East China Sea.
The ministry’s budget proposal, released yesterday, seeks an increase of 2.6 percent in spending, to a record ￥5.48 trillion (US$49.9 billion), for the year starting on April 1 next year.
Japanese Ministry of Finance officials have to review, and could amend, the request before sending it to Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s Cabinet for approval.
However, Japan’s defense spending increases are not enough to keep pace with China’s expanding military budget, which increased 6.8 percent this year and is already about four times more than Japan’s, and second only to the US in size.
Instead, Tokyo’s strategy is to build a force armed with the latest equipment to deter Beijing from military action to settle territorial or other disputes in the region.
Big-ticket spending requests include ￥130 billion for 12 Lockheed Martin Corp F-35 stealth jets, four of which would be short takeoff and vertical landing B variants operating off converted helicopter carriers.
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