TOKYO --- Japan’s cabinet approved a record defense budget of just over 5 trillion yen ($42.5 billion) for the year starting April, as tensions with China simmer over disputed islands in the East China Sea.
The figure marks the fifth straight rise in annual military spending -- a trend that started after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took office in late 2012. Separately, an extra spending package approved for the current financial year included 171 million yen for defense, with the focus on ballistic missile defense as fears grow over North Korea’s nuclear and missile capabilities.
Defense Minister Tomomi Inada said last month that while the government didn’t have a concrete plan to introduce a U.S. missile defense shield, it was considering the option. Deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system in the country could hurt ties with Russia and China, which have both opposed its planned introduction in South Korea.
Here are the main points of the two spending packages, which must be now passed by parliament:
-- Defense budget for year starting April rises 1.4 percent to 5.1 trillion yen
-- New submarine model with improved sensor capability to be developed at a cost of 72.8 billion yen; Japan to expand its fleet to 22 submarines from 16
-- Japan to budget for a further six Lockheed-Martin F-35 fighter aircraft at a cost of 88 billion yen; F-35 squadron to be established at Misawa, northern Japan
-- 14.7 billion yen budgeted for procurement of new ship-based ballistic missile interceptors known as SM-3 Block II A
-- Defense allocation in third extra budget for current fiscal year to be 171 billion yen, of which 33 billion yen will be spent on upgrading ballistic missile defense. This includes an improved version of PAC-3 ground-based interceptors and research into future missile-defense systems.
Japan is also increasing the budget for its coast guard as China steps up its presence around East China Sea islands known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China. (end of excerpt)
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