Japan plans largest ever defence budget to counter China’s reach
Defence ministry requests £27bn amid concern over Beijing’s construction of artificial bases in the South China Sea [more here [note imagery link] and here] and claims to Senkaku islands
Japan’s defence ministry has requested its biggest ever budget to bolster its ability to protect outlying islands in response to China’s growing military reach in the region.
The ministry has asked for 5.09 trillion yen (£27bn) for the financial year starting in April 2016, amid concern over Beijing’s construction of artificial bases in the South China Sea and its claims to the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu island chain in the East China Sea.
If approved, the defence budget would be Japan’s biggest ever, after the fourth increase in as many years. The budget will be drafted into a bill in December and submitted to parliament for approval.
Japan had been making annual cuts to its defence budget for a decade up to 2013. The increases since then reflect its growing anxiety about China’s expanding naval reach. The rise is also in line with Japan’s more assertive defence policy under the conservative prime minister, Shinzo Abe, as he seeks to check Chinese influence and expand the scope of his country’s military.
Abe’s ongoing attempts to push through legislation that would allow Japanese troops to fight alongside allies on foreign soil for the first time since the end of the second world war brought tens of thousands of people out in protest on Sunday [Aug. 30].
Monday’s budget request, an increase of 2.2% on last year, demonstrates a shift in Japan’s security emphasis from its northern maritime border with Russia to its long and porous southern reaches. In contrast to previous investment in tanks and heavy artillery, it is building a more flexible and mobile force – including its own version of the US marine corps – that would be able to quickly defend territory against an invading enemy.
Japan’s defence budget is still dwarfed by that of China, where military spending rose by more than 10% this year to £90bn.
China is second only to the US, which spent $581bn (£377bn) on defence in 2014, while Japan was ranked seventh, according to the International Institute of Strategic Studies in London…