Japan defense planners seek spending boost amid rivalry

In this file photo, an anti-land mine missile is launched during an exercise by Japanese forces at the Higashi Fuji training range in Gotemba, southwest of Tokyo.

Japan’s Defense Ministry makes its biggest ever budget request, as Tokyo bolsters its military amid worries over China’s expanding naval reach Japan’s defense planners are seeking their biggest budget ever for the coming fiscal year to pay for stealth fighters, drones and a hi-tech submarine, as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe bolsters the military amid an intensifying rivalry with China.

The Defense Ministry on Aug. 29 requested a 3.5 percent increase to 5.05 trillion yen ($48.7 billion) for the year starting next April. If approved, this third increase in a row will more than reverse the decade of cuts that Abe ended after coming to office in December 2012.

The hawkish premier, taking a more assertive stance on national security, has also ended a ban on Japanese soldiers fighting abroad and eased curbs on weapons exports. By testing the constraints of Japan’s pacifist postwar constitution, Abe has angered some neighbors, especially Beijing, which accuses him of reviving the nation’s wartime militarism.

Fourfold increase in China’s budget

Japan, in turn, is wary of the rapid military buildup in China, which has overtaken Japan in recent years as the world’s second-biggest economy. Beijing’s military budget has jumped fourfold over the past decade to 808 billion yuan ($132 billion), nearly triple Japan’s.

In recent years, Sino-Japanese tensions have ramped up over the ownership of a group of uninhabited islets in the East China Sea. Patrol ships and military planes from both countries now routinely shadow each other in the area.

In an bid to better protect remote islands, Japan’s Defense Ministry wants to buy six F-35 stealth fighters...

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