Japan approves record draft defense budget amid North Korea threat | News | DW | 22.12.2017

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Japan approves record draft defense budget amid North Korea threat

The defense budget includes purchases of US military equipment and missiles capable of striking North Korea. Japan's missile force had previously been limited to munitions with ranges of less than 300 kilometers.

The Japanese government approved a record draft defense budget for the fiscal year starting April 1, as the country increases spending on missiles in the face of threats from North Korea.

Defense spending will rise for the sixth year in a row, increasing by 1.3 percent to $45.76 billion (5.19 trillion yen, €38.65 billion). The biggest cost is 137 billion yen to reinforce defenses against a possible North Korean ballistic missile attack.

Read more: Japan expands missile defenses to curb North Korea threat

This includes a new longer-range interceptor, the SM-3 Block IIA, designed to strike ballistic missiles in space, upgrades for the Patriot missile batteries that are the last line of defense against incoming warheads, and the cost of preparations for introducing the US military's Aegis Ashore land-based missile interceptor system.

"It is essential that we have the latest, most capable equipment to bolster our defenses," Japanese Minister of Defence Intsunori Onodera said after he and other Cabinet members approved the new spending plan.

Japan will also acquire medium-range air-launched missiles, costing 2.2 billion yen, which are capable of targeting sites in North Korea.

Japan's missile force had previously been limited to anti-aircraft and anti-ship munitions with ranges of less than 300 kilometers.

North Korea recently tested ballistic missiles over Japan including a new type of intercontinental ballistic missile that reached an altitude of 4,000 kilometers before landing in the sea within Japan's economic zone.

Read more: UN Security Council condemns North Korea missile test

The purchase of mostly US-made equipment means Japan's defense planners are being forced to curtail domestic programs that would help local defense contractors such as Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Kawasaki Heavy Industries maintain their military industrial base. That may force Japan to curtail its long-held ambition to build an advanced stealth fighter, dubbed the F-3 which is meant to counter military technology advances by China.

In November, US President Donald Trump called on Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to buy more US-made weapons as his administration pushes Washington's allies to contribute more to their joint defense.

Read more: Eyeing North Korea, US and Japan to boost military ties

Japan's post-World War II pacifist constitution bans the use of force as a means of settling international disputes, but the increasing threat from North Korea has seen politicians, including Onodera, call for a more robust military that could deter a North Korean attack.

law/jil (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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