Japan Approves Record Defense Budget as China's Presence Grows

  • Military spending increases for fourth straight year under Abe
  • Figure includes $1.4 billion for new Aegis-equipped ship

Japan’s cabinet approved a record defense budget Thursday as it seeks to ensure security in the waters and airspace around the island nation amid China’s increasingly assertive military posturing in the region.

QuickTake Japan’s Military

The 5.1 trillion yen ($42 billion) spending package for the year starting April is an increase of 1.5 percent from the current fiscal year, marking the fourth straight annual rise under the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. It accounts for just over 5 percent of the overall 96.7 trillion yen budget, also approved Thursday.

Major purchases include:

  • 173 billion yen for an Aegis-equipped anti-ballistic missile ship
  • 108 billion yen for six F-35A fighter aircraft
  • 103 billion yen for 17 SH-60K patrol helicopters
  • The figure also includes increased funding for the realignment of U.S. troops in Japan and a new government plane for use by the prime minister on foreign trips

The budget is the first since parliament passed legislation this summer to expand the role of Japan’s military to enable the nation to assist an ally under attack. The legislation led to rare public demonstrations in Japan that triggered a plunge in support for the Abe government.

Japan is bolstering it defense of its southern islands in the East China Sea, where it has a territorial dispute with China. While Abe has denied Japan will send maritime forces to back up U.S. navigation exercises in the South China Sea, he’s said he supports the freedom-of-navigation operations that are challenging China’s claims to more than 80 percent of one of the world’s busiest waterways.

The budget seeks to ensure deterrence and permit an effective response to various situations including attacks on remote islands, ballistic missile launches as well as improving outer space and cyberspace security and strengthening intelligence capabilities, according to the Ministry of Defense.

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