Japan's record defense budget unsettling region

Updated: 2015-12-29 07:53

By Cai Hong(China Daily)

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Japan's record defense budget unsettling region

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (R) reviews Japanese Self-Defence Forces' (SDF) troops during the annual SDF ceremony at Asaka Base in Asaka, near Tokyo, in this October 27, 2013 file photo. [Photo/Agencies]

The record-high defense budget Japan's cabinet approved on Thursday is heavily geared toward expanding the role of the country's Self-Defense Forces and broadening the cooperation between Japan and the United States.

The 5.1 trillion yen ($42.1 billion) request is part of a 96.7 trillion yen ($800 billion) national budget plan for fiscal 2016 that begins from April.

Japan's defense spending was falling before Shinzo Abe returned to the prime minister's office in 2012. Under his watch, the declines have been reversed.

The new defense budget is the fourth consecutive increase under his leadership, up 2.2 percent from the current fiscal year, and the first since Japan revised its bilateral defense guidelines with the US and enacted new security legislation to strengthen its military role and allow wider cooperation between the two allies.

Japan revised the guidelines for the defense cooperation with the US in April. The new Acquisition Technology and Logistics Agency under Japan's defense ministry became operational on Oct 1. And most importantly, new security laws that allow Japan to exercise the right to the collective self-defense were pushed through the Diet in September.

Although opinion surveys suggest the Japanese public is wary of the changes, the Abe administration has determinedly railroaded them through. And it is clear that the changes being initiated are largely China-centric. Japanese defense white papers have repeatedly posited China as the main source of security concerns in recent years.

Among other things, the Japanese defense ministry's budget proposal claims such spending is necessary to defend its island-dotted ocean territory stretching 1,400 kilometers from the Japanese mainland almost to Taiwan. Money will also be allocated to building and extending military bases along the island chain. By bolstering its military presence on islands with radar stations, troop bases and missile batteries Japan wants to gain a tactical advantage over China.

Big ticket items include the procurement of the pricy US Global Hawk unmanned surveillance aircraft and four Osprey tilt-rotor transportation aircraft. Japan will also acquire the new KC46A aerial refueling aircraft to fulfill the role of refueling US military planes as part of the SDF's rear-echelon support envisioned in the security laws.

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