Japan’s defense ministry on Wednesday asked for a hike in spending to record levels, as it juggles its responses to a growing ballistic missile threat from North Korea and China’s assertive moves in the East China Sea.
If approved, the hike of 2.3% will take the defense budget to 5.17 trillion yen ($51.47 billion) in the year starting April 1, for a fifth consecutive increase as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe bolsters Japan’s military.
The nation’s Self Defense Forces are pivoting away from guarding the north against a diminished Russian threat to reinforce an island chain stretching 1,400 km (870 miles) along the southern edge of the East China Sea.
That means opting for fewer tank divisions as they build a mobile amphibious force from scratch.
The costly rejig comes as Japan is also forced to spend more to guard against ballistic missiles being developed by North Korea capable of striking most areas.
The single biggest expenditure is 99 billion yen to upgrade Japan’s warhead-killing Patriot batteries, a last line of defence against missile strikes.
The improvements will double their range to around 30 km (19 miles) and sharpen targeting to hit arriving ballistic warheads.
Other proposed defense buys will reinforce the East China Sea, where Japan and China are locked in a territorial dispute over a group of islets 220 km (140 miles) northeast of Taiwan known as the Senkakus in Tokyo and the Diaoyus in Beijing.
Japanese air scrambles against Chinese aircraft are running at a record high, with Beijing’s navy probing deeper and more frequently into the Western Pacific beyond Japan’s island chain.
Full article: Japan’s military seeks record spending to counter N Korea, China moves (Asia Times)