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Japan Seeks Biggest-Ever Defense Budget Amid China Concerns

By: Stripes.com

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Japan’s Defense Ministry wants to buy an advanced Aegis radar-equipped destroyer and more F-35 fighters under its largest-ever budget to bolster the defense of southern islands amid a territorial dispute with China.

The ministry endorsed a 5.1 trillion yen ($42 billion) budget request Monday for the year beginning next April, up 2.2 percent from this year. It would be the fourth annual increase under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who took office in December 2012 and ended 10 years of defense budget cuts.

Abe’s government says Japan needs to bolster its military role amid China’s growing territorial assertiveness and the rising risk of terrorist attacks. Parliament is expected to approve a set of contentious bills to expand Japan’s military role by late September.

The budget increase results largely from proposed purchases of new equipment, including 17 surveillance helicopters, six F-35 fighters and three advanced Global Hawk drones. The construction of a Soryu-class submarine is also planned to bolster island defense and surveillance.

The budget request also includes the cost of planned new troop deployments on two southern islands, Amami Oshima and Miyako.

The ministry also requested funds to enhance information-gathering by posting intelligence officials in three new locations, Jordan, United Arab Emirates and Mongolia.

The requests are based on new defense guidelines allowing Japan’s military a larger role amid tensions over China’s growing military might.

The budget is to be formally drafted into a bill in December that will be submitted to parliament for approval.

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