Japan Sets Record $52 Billion Military Budget with Stealth Jets, Long-Range Missiles (excerpt)
(Source: Reuters; published Dec. 21, 2020)
TOKYO --- Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s government approved a ninth consecutive rise in military spending on Monday, funding the development of an advanced stealth fighter and longer-range anti-ship missile to counter China’s growing military power.
The Ministry of Defense will get a record 5.34 trillion yen ($51.7 billion) for the year starting in April, up 1.1% from this year. With Suga’s large majority in parliament, enactment of the budget is all but certain.
Suga is continuing the controversial military expansion pursued by his predecessor, Shinzo Abe, to give Japan’s forces new planes, missiles and aircraft carriers with greater range and potency against potential foes including neighbouring China.
China plans to raise its military spending 6.6% this year, the smallest increase in three decades.
Japan is buying longer-range missiles and considering arming and training its military to strike distant land targets in China, North Korea and other parts of Asia.
A planned jet fighter, the first in three decades, is expected to cost around $40 billion and be ready in the 2030s. That project, which will be led by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd with help from Lockheed Martin Corp, gets $706 million in the new budget.
Japan will spend $323 million to begin development of a long-range anti-ship missile to defend its southwestern Okinawan island chain. (end of excerpt)
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Japan's Cabinet approved Friday the building of two naval vessels equipped with Aegis missile interceptor systems as an alternative to a scrapped plan to deploy a land-based system.
The Cabinet also gave the green light to develop standoff missiles, or long-range missiles able to attack enemy vessels from outside their firing range. But it stopped short of stipulating that Japan will possess the capability to strike enemy bases as a deterrent.
The approval comes as Japan is seeking to enhance its defense capabilities in the face of the North Korean missile threat and China's assertiveness in the East China Sea.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has been looking carefully into the issue of gaining the ability to launch such strikes on foreign soil amid concerns that such development could deviate from Japan's defense-oriented policy under the war-renouncing Constitution.
"I understand that the purpose is to strengthen Japan's standoff defense capability and not to attack enemy bases," Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato said in a press conference.
Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi separately said, "We have to separate discussions between (developing) standoff missiles and (having the capability to) block missiles (within enemy territory)."
"Around the islands in the southwest of Japan, China is increasing its naval activities and Japan has to respond to this. In such a tense situation, standoff missiles that can attack adversaries while securing the safety of our troops are important to defend our islands," Kishi said.
Suga's predecessor Shinzo Abe said in September that the government will "set an appropriate path" to stop missiles in adversaries' territories by the end of this year.
Regarding the Aegis ships, Japan had been considering two other options for deploying the Aegis systems offshore to counter missile threats from countries including North Korea -- one envisaging refitting private-sector vessels and the other using offshore structures similar to oil rigs.
"North Korea is developing unprecedented missiles as they enhance their technology," Kishi said, adding he is concerned about the growing threat as the country recently displayed new intercontinental ballistic missiles and continues to test new missiles.
"By looking at the situation carefully, we will have to consider what weapons we will install on Aegis ships and how to operate them," he said.
The Defense Ministry is considering installing weapons that can counter not only ballistic missiles but also various aerial threats such as cruise missiles and fighters.
The ministry scrapped in June its plan to adopt the U.S.-developed Aegis Ashore ballistic missile defense systems in northeastern and western Japan, given technical problems, swelling costs and public opposition.
Costs for the two new vessels are estimated at more than 500 billion yen ($4.8 billion), 100 billion yen more than the dropped plan to deploy the land-based defense system, and they will require five years to build. The government will still need to work out the specifics, including when to start building them.
Meanwhile, the development of standoff missiles would cost about 33.5 billion yen with the ministry seeking funds for the next fiscal year starting April and it is expected to take around five years, according to the ministry.
The ministry will extend the firing range of surface-to-ship missiles that it has been developing and they will likely be able to fly about 900 kilometers.
The plan approved by the Cabinet says the missiles will be launched from various platforms, not only from land but also from ships and aircraft, which will make it more difficult for other countries to respond.
"The missiles' main purpose is to attack vessels. But in case adversaries' troops invade our islands, they could be used against them," a government official said.
Click here for the full story, on the Kyodo website.