Japan Boosts Defense Spending to Counter China Island ClaimsIsabel Reynolds and Kyoko Shimodoi
Japan will increase defense spending for a third straight year as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe seeks to counter China’s claims to remote islands in the East China Sea.
The budget for the year starting April will be 4.98 trillion yen ($42 billion), up from 4.84 trillion yen in fiscal 2014, according to documents obtained by Bloomberg. Spending on defense will account for about 5 percent of the national budget, which is set to be approved by the cabinet tomorrow.
Japan’s defense spending is about one-third that of China, which boosted its military budget by more than 12 percent last year. Ties have frayed over the sovereignty of the islets, though officials from both countries resumed talks yesterday in Tokyo on a maritime communication mechanism to prevent accidental clashes at sea.
Ships and planes from the two nations have been tailing one another in the area since Japan bought three of the islands from a private owner in September 2012. Yoshihide Suga, Japan’s top government spokesman, said today that a certain degree of common understanding was achieved in the maritime talks.
Both sides “have reached a certain consensus” on the maritime communication mechanism and agreed to activate it “at an early date,” said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei.
In August, Japan’s defense ministry requested a record budget that included funds for 20 P-1 fixed-wing patrol aircraft, six F-35 fighter aircraft and an unspecified number of unmanned aircraft. Japan will also allocate funds for establishing a military observation unit on Yonaguni island, close to the disputed islets.
Abe has reversed an 11-year decline in the defense budget, and his cabinet in July last year reinterpreted the pacifist constitution, which hasn’t been changed in almost 70 years, to allow Japanese troops to defend other countries. Parliament also passed a bill to strengthen penalties for leaking government secrets.