Japan seeks biggest defence budget ever amid concerns over growing strength of China

On the shopping list is an Aegis radar-controlled missile destroyer, Osprey tilt-wing aircraft, surveillance helicopters and Global Hawk spy drones to patrol waters around Japan contested with China

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The Independent Online

Japan’s defence ministry has endorsed plans to buy an advanced destroyer, F35 fighters and drones in its largest military budget in history, amid protests in Tokyo over plans to change the country’s pacifist constitution.

On the shopping list in next year’s $42bn (£27bn) defence budget, up 2.2 per cent on last year, is an Aegis radar-controlled missile destroyer, Osprey tilt-wing aircraft, surveillance helicopters and Global Hawk spy drones to patrol waters around Japan contested with China. It is the fourth annual rise under prime minister Shinzo Abe, who took office in December 2012 and ended 10 years of defence cuts.

The construction of a Soryu-class submarine is also planned to bolster island defence and surveillance, and the budget includes the cost of planned new troop deployments on two southern islands, Amami Oshima and Miyako.

The funding and planned roles for the new equipment in the south marks a shift from Japan’s emphasis on security on its northern maritime border with Russia to counter the growing strength of the Chinese. It comes as China prepares to stage its largest military parade since 2009 on Thursday, to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War.

The Japanese hardware would monitor outlying territories and repel any attempt to invade the Senkaku islands, which are administered by Japan but claimed by China.

In its annual white paper, Japan’s defence ministry spoke earlier this year of “great concern” over China’s activities in the East China Sea and also cited North Korea as a security threat. The announcement came a day after mass protests in Tokyo against plans to change the constitution, written after defeat in 1945, which limits Japanese forces to defence only and bans nuclear weapons.

 

Parliament is expected to approve a set of contentious bills to expand Japan’s military role by late this month. Demonstrators outside parliament’s main gate called for Mr Abe to quit and demanded that pacifism remain at the heart of Japanese policy.

Mr Abe’s government  says Japan needs to bolster its military role amid China’s growing territorial assertiveness and the rising risk of terrorist attacks.

However, Japan’s military budget is still dwarfed by China’s £90bn outlay. Japan is heavily reliant on its alliance with the US, which still operates bases there and has recently announced a “pivot” in policy to focus on growing Pacific threats.

AP/Reuters

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