Japan approves record military spending amid rising tensions with China and North Korea

Economy - Himanshu Gill - Dec 22,2016

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japan approves record military spending amid rising tensions with china and north korea

Shinzo Abe, Japan’s Prime Minister, has signed a record defense budget amid rising territorial disputes with China and North Korea’s nuclear missile threats.

The Prime Minister’s cabinet approved 5.13 trillion yen ($43.6 billion) for defense expenses for the fiscal year starting in April 2017, up by 1.4 percent from the initial budget for the current fiscal year.

It also marks the fifth straight annual increase and reflects Abe's aggressive attempt to build up Japan's military, which since the World War II has been constitutionally limited to self-defense. Abe is focusing on revisions in the Japanese constitution, strongly backing new security laws that took effect this year making it possible for Japanese armed forces to fight abroad for the first time since the end of the 2nd World War.

The overall budget for the upcoming financial year is proposed at 97.5 trillion yen, out of which a separate coastguard budget will also be raised sharply – from 187.7 billion yen to 210 billion yen – due to rising tension with China over disputed islands in the East China Sea. The budget, however, is yet to be approved by the Japanese parliament.

Coastguard vessels from both countries always keep a check on each other near the uninhabited islands which are controlled by Japan but are also claimed by China. Five new large patrol ships, and 200 more maritime law enforcement staff are among the expenditure proposals of the cabinet.

Japan is on constant alert from North Korea, which has recently conducted two underground nuclear tests and more than 20 missile launches this year. Under the new budget, the ministry aims to upgrade Japan's ballistic missile defenses, allocating funds for a new interceptor missile under joint development with the United States.

Japan has also been improving defense ties with the Philippines and other South-east Asian nations, some of which have their own disputes with Beijing in the South China Sea.