Japan Cabinet Approves Record Defense Budget in Face of China Threats

Japan’s cabinet approved a record defense budget plan of about $51.6 billion for the coming year, in what will be the ninth consecutive increase in annual spending amid threats from China and North Korea.

Part of the money is set to go toward adding two Aegis-equipped destroyers. This would eventually bring Japan’s tally to 10 of the sea-based missile interceptors -- making it the largest fleet of the ships in the world after the U.S. Navy’s.

While just 1.7 billion yen ($16.4 million) has been allocated for research into the Lockheed Martin Aegis-equipped missile defense destroyers in the fiscal year starting in April, the ships are likely to cost about $5 billion, according to an estimate by contractors in the Nikkei newspaper.

The ships come after Japan scrapped plans for a land-based Aegis missile defense system earlier this year amid local concerns about safety. North Korea, which sees Japan as a mortal enemy, since last year has unveiled a new arsenal of quick-strike, solid-fuel ballistic missiles, including rockets capable of delivering a nuclear warhead to most of its neighbor, weapons experts have said.

The draft budget marks a 0.5% increase from the previous fiscal year, Kyodo News reported. The document must be approved by parliament before coming into effect.

Japan will also develop a new, longer-range surface-to-ship missile, in a move that comes as its warships and those from China have sailed near each other off uninhabited East China Sea islands claimed by both nations. Some 33.5 billion yen will go toward work on the missile, which has been criticized by some as a potential infringement of Japan’s pacifist constitution.

Limited by its pacifist constitution, Japan relies heavily on the U.S. for nuclear deterrence, but has often come under pressure to do more for its own defense.

Development of the country’s next-generation fighter plane will account for 57.6 billion yen of the budget.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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