TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan’s Defense Ministry submitted a record spending request of 7.7 trillion yen ($52.67 billion) on Thursday for the 2024 fiscal year, the latest step in a plan to boost defense spending by 43 trillion yen over five years.
The request relates to the second year of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s plan to double defense spending to 2% of gross domestic product by 2027 in the face of an increasingly assertive China and an unpredictable North Korea.
The request comes as Japan’s relations with China have deteriorated sharply, as last week Japan began dumping treated radioactive water from the destroyed Fukushima nuclear plant into the sea. China condemned the release and banned imports of Japanese seafood.
The fiscal order for 2024, submitted to the Ministry of Finance, adds nearly 1 trillion yen to the previous year’s budget of 6.8 trillion yen. If approved, the budget would have increased spending by about 1 trillion yen over the previous year for an unprecedented two consecutive years.
The Defense Ministry plans to allocate more than 900 billion yen to secure ammunition and weapons, including new air-to-air missiles, according to the budget request.
About 600 billion yen will be used to strengthen logistical capabilities to deploy weapons and resources toward the southwestern island chains in case of emergency.
The defense ministry said in its request that the budget includes funding for three new landing ships totaling 17 billion yen, 17 transport helicopters worth more than 300 billion yen, and a new specialized transport team to improve deployment capabilities.
Japan will also allocate 75 billion yen to jointly develop interceptor missiles to counter hypersonic warheads with the United States, and 64 billion yen to create next-generation fighter jets with Britain and Italy.
The record defense spending by a close ally of the United States comes after decades of peaceful policies. In 1947, the United States imposed a constitution on Japan that renounced war.
But concerns about China’s maritime ambitions and military aggression, especially with regard to Taiwan, and an increasingly aggressive and militarized North Korea, have shifted thinking, as has the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Still, Japanese aggression before and during World War II caused tension in relations with some countries in Asia, and Japan provided assurances that its growing military power would not be used to threaten others.
Japan said it will continue to prioritize diplomatic efforts and dialogue to avoid misunderstandings.
Reporting by Sakura Murakami; Editing by Robert Purcell
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