Japan Ramps Up Military Budget to Ward Off China

Japan Ramps Up Military Budget to Ward Off China

By German Radio on Thursday, January 15th, 2015

The government of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe approved a 2.8 percent rise in defense spending on Wednesday, with Tokyo seeking to bolster defenses in its waters bordering China.

“The situation around Japan is changing,” Defense Minister Gen Nakatani said on Sunday. “The level of defense spending reflects the amount necessary to protect Japan’s air, sea, and land, and guard the lives and property of our citizens.”

The draft budget included 4.98 trillion yen ($42 billion, 35 billion euros) for items including planes, naval vessels, and other combat vehicles to guard waters.

“This is the largest budget ever,” one ministry official told the AFP news agency. The highest allocation previously, he said, was 4.96 trillion yen earmarked in 2002.

It is the third year in succession that Japanese defense spending has risen, though Tokyo has previously maintained a relatively low military profile. The trend reflects Abe’s wish to build a more active military amid rising tensions with China.

Small Islands, Big Dispute

In particular, the two countries have revived a decades-long spat over the sovereignty of a group of islands in the East China Sea. Relations between Beijing and Tokyo have become increasingly strained over the rocks, known as the Senkaku Islands, in Japan and the Diaoyu Islands in China.

Much of Tokyo’s spending will go to orders with US firms. Troop-carrying Boeing Co Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft are on the shopping list, along with Northrop Grumman surveillance drones and Lockheed Martin F-35 stealth fighters.

Japan’s defense ministry is also set to buy 30 units of amphibious vehicles and an early-warning aircraft, to be assigned to protect fringe areas.

Another chunk of funding will be used to relocate US troops away from their current base on the main island of Okinawa.

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Tokyo escalates arms spend amid frictions with China

Defense budget mark’s Japan’s third straight year of increased military spending

Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe. Japan approved the largest ever defense budget for the next fiscal year as Mr Abe seeks to strengthen the surveillance of territorial waters. Photograph: Getty Images Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe. Japan approved the largest ever defense budget for the next fiscal year as Mr Abe seeks to strengthen the surveillance of territorial waters. Photograph: Getty Images

David McNeill

Wed, Jan 14, 2015, 20:13

Japan’s government has passed its largest-ever defense budget amid a tense two-year territorial standoff with China.

The \4.98-trillion yen ($42 billion) package tops the previous record set in 2002 and mark’s Japan’s third straight year of increased military spending.

The military shopping list includes 30 amphibious vehicles, three unmanned reconnaissance aircraft, six high-tech F35A stealth fighters and five Osprey, a US-made helicopter with the range of an airplane.

Millions more have been pledged to defend the country’s remote outlying islands, including the Senkakus, claimed by China which calls them Diaoyu.

Changing Situation

Defense minister Gen Nakatani cited the “changing situation around Japan” as the reason for the spending. “The level of defense spending reflects the amount necessary to protect Japan’s air, sea, and land, and guard the lives and property of our citizens,” he said.

Shinzo Abe, Japan’s hawkish prime minister, returned to power in 2012 promising to reverse a long-term decline in military spending and upgrade the nation’s defense posture.

Last year, he ended a ban on selling weapons overseas and reinterpreted Japan’s constitution to allow it to come to the aid of a military ally, a milestone in the country’s steady retreat from postwar pacifism.

Japan does not refer directly to threats from its powerful neighbor in its latest defense white paper but has long criticized China’s military build-up.

Officials with Japan’s defense ministry say China’s military budget has multiplied 30 times over the last decade and its annual defense spending is roughly twice Japan’s.

Japan’s 2015 budget includes money to deploy combat vehicles near the Senkakus and for a radar unit and military base on the tiny frontier island of Yonaguni, the closest Japanese territory to mainland China.

The defense ministry also wants to build up an amphibious assault force, modelled on the US marines, to take remote territory from enemy hands, part of a strategic shift to the south and southwest.

Defense budgets are falling in the West but rapidly rising in Asia. Military expenditure in Asia and Oceania rose 3.6 per cent in 2013, according the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

Japan’s latest budget includes $1.4 billion to relocate a controversial US marine base from crowded Ginowan City in Okinawa to a remote fishing village in the same prefecture.

Proactive Pacifism

Mr Abe’s government says it intends to build the new offshore base despite the opposition of most of Okinawa’s population and its newly elected governor. In 2013, Mr Abe told the United Nations that Japan will “newly bear” the flag of “proactive pacifism”, an unintentionally Orwellian-sounding phrase that stands in for a potentially more controversial one: confronting rising China.
Japan also recently launched the Izumo, a 250m-long “flat-topped destroyer” loaded with helicopters. Named after a second World War armoured cruiser that was sunk by the US navy in 1945, the warship joins two other helicopter ships that China and others have branded “quasi-aircraft carriers”.

Wed, Jan 14, 2015, 20:13

First published: Wed, Jan 14, 2015, 20:13

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