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Japan government approves 8th straight defence spending hike to record high

Japan government approves 8th straight defence spending hike to record high

Japan aims to beef up its military to counter an increasingly dominant China. (Photo: AFP/Kazuhiro NOGI)

TOKYO: Japan's government on Friday (Dec 20) approved an eighth straight annual increase in defence spending to a record high as it buys US.-made stealth fighters, interceptor missiles and other equipment to counter military build-ups by North Korea and China.

Japan's defence budget will rise 1.1 per cent to a record 5.31 trillion yen (US$48.56 billion) in the year starting Apr 1. Japan's parliament, which is dominated by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's ruling Liberal Democratic Party, will vote on the spending plan next year.

Despite a constitution that forbids the possession of offensive weapons, Japan is one of the world's biggest military spenders. Outlays on defence have increased by almost 15 per cent in less than a decade, spurred on by neighbouring China modernising its military and North Korea developing nuclear weapons and missiles that could deliver them anywhere in Japan.

Much of Japan's recent defence spending splurge has gone on equipment supplied by US defence contractors such as Lockheed Martin and Raytheon. Local makers such as Mitsubishi Heavy Industries have seen their share of defence spending shrink.

President Donald Trump has thanked Abe for buying the US equipment, helping ease trade tensions between the allies.

Big-ticket purchases next year will include nine Lockheed Martin F-35 stealth fighters, including six short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) B variants it wants to fly off aircraft carriers, for 107 billion yen. Japan plans to deploy them to extend the operational range of its Self Defense Forces.

Japan's Ministry of Defense will also spend more than US$1 billion to strengthen its ballistic missile defences (BMD), including the purchase of a new generation of missiles designed by Raytheon to shoot down incoming warheads in space. 

It is also appropriating funds to begin building two ground-based Aegis Ashore missile tracking stations with powerful new radars. 

Source: Reuters/ga

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