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Japan approves biggest ever defense budget

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's cabinet approves Japan's biggest annual defense budget as tensions escalate with China. The overall budget also tops the country's previous budgets, but aims to control debt and spur growth.

Japan's cabinet has approved on Thursday a record 96.7-trillion-yen (732 billion euro) fiscal 2016 budget.

Included in the budget is an approval for the biggest ever annual defense budget by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's cabinet, with an expected rise of 5.05 trillion yen (38 billion euros). That would mark a 1.5 percent climb over this year.

It is the fourth consecutive year of increased spending for Japan under Abe, who has said he wants to increase defense capabilities to better protect the country amid a territorial dispute with China over islands in the East China Sea.

The increased budget also follows

a new security law Japan signed in September,

which could see Japanese troops fight abroad for the first time in 70 years. The controversial expansion of defense powers sparked protest from pacifists urging Tokyo not to join global conflicts.

The budget plan also includes the purchase of other high-tech military equipment, including a destroyer and equipment for sonar development and submarine construction.

Japan has revised its cooperation with the US, and has recently purchased a surveillance drone and F-35 fighter jets.

Other expenses

To help tackle the country's ageing society, Japan projects a rise in social security expenses to 31.97 trillion yen (242 billion euros), a 1.4 percent climb from fiscal 2015. The increase is also a record for the country.

Tax revenue in the country is expected to go up to 57.6 trillion yen (436 billion euros), a 25-year high. The record level is based on the government's projection of a gross domestic product increase of 1.7 percent.

Abe's government has said they will submit the draft budget to parliament, and if passed, the budget is expected to be enacted by the end of March.

smm/gsw (dpa, AP, AFP, Reuters)

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