JAPAN DEFENSE BUDGET ZOOMS TO $51.7B DUE TO CHINA THREATS
The government approved, a record defense budget for fiscal 2021 totaling 5.34 trillion yen ($51.7 billion) as it seeks to introduce new standoff missiles capable of attacking enemy vessels from outside their firing range amid growing China threats, Reito Kaneko reported for Kyodo news agency.
The draft budget is up 0.5 percent from fiscal 2020, including outlays linked to hosting the United States' military bases, and has hit a record high for the seventh consecutive year as the country beefs up its ability to deal with China's growing maritime assertiveness and North Korea's missile and nuclear threats.
In the first year of the administration of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, the defense budget has grown for a ninth straight year. Suga has pledged to advance the course set by his long-serving predecessor Shinzo Abe.
The Defense Ministry secured 33.5 billion yen for the development of the Japan-made standoff missiles. Opposition lawmakers have raised concerns over the development, saying possessing such missiles that could have the capability to strike enemy bases would run counter to the country's war-renouncing Constitution and exclusively defense-oriented policy.
Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi has said Japan has to "respond" to China's increasing naval activities around the islands in the southwest of Japan, while securing the safety of Japan's Self-Defense Forces, and for such an end, standoff missiles are vital in defending the islands.
The missiles will require five years to develop as the ministry will extend the firing range of surface-to-ship missiles that it is developing and they will likely fly 900 kilometers. The ministry also earmarked 1.7 billion yen to prepare for the building of two new Aegis naval vessels.