Japan: Defense Ministry seeks budget hike amid China fears | News | DW | 31.08.2021

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Japan: Defense Ministry seeks budget hike amid China fears

Japan's military is looking into developing a new fighter jet and boosting its online and space-related defense systems amid fears of North Korea and China.

A Japanese military helicopter flying besides the Japanese destroyer ship Shirane

Japan has identified China as its main national security threat

Japan's Defense Ministry issued a request for a further increase to the country's military spending on Tuesday. The ministry is seeking a budget of 5.48 trillion yen ($50 billion, €42 billion).

The country's military spending has been rising for the past decade, citing threats posed by China's own growing military budget and North Korea's nuclear ambitions.

The country's current military budget stands at 5.3 trillion yen, lower than the 5.49 trillion yen that was requested last year. The latest request will also be reviewed by the finance ministry before Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has the chance to give his approval.

Even if the Japanese government approves the budget request, China's military spending will still dwarf that of its neighbor. The People's Republic has been increasing its spending for the past 26 years, reaching an estimated $252 billion in 2020.

Watch video 03:40

US pressing Japan to spend more on troops

What are the defense ministry's aims?

The military spending request lays out plans for Japan to build five military ships and a submarine, as well as purchasing 12 Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter jets, with a price tag of around 130 billion yen.

The defense ministry is also requesting 105 billion yen for the development of a domestic fighter jet, the first in three decades. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries would lead the project.

The proposed request would also see the ministry spend 34.5 billion yen to strengthen the country's protection against cyber-attacks. Japan is also looking to improve its space-related defense systems, including satellites and lasers.

Regional rivals

While Tokyo cannot match Beijing's military spending, its strategy is to deter any strikes with the latest technology and equipment.

China's military budget is expected to increase by 6.8% next year, compared to the increase of 2.6% proposed by Japan's defense ministry.

"The military strength of the People's Liberation Army of China is growing faster than we thought ... while threats from North Korea's missile and nuclear development have never really diminished," defense expert Hideshi Takesada told the AFP news agency.

There are also concerns over signs that Pyongyang is restarting its plutonium-producing reprocessing reactor and possibly expanding its banned weapons programs, as noted by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

ab/dj (AFP, Reuters)