Japan to rush military spending to bolster air and sea defenses

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida speaks at his press conference after parliament re-elected him prime minister following an election victory last month for his ruling Liberal Democratic Party in Kantei, Japan , November 10, 2021. Stanislav Kogiku / Pool via REUTERS

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TOKYO, Nov.26 (Reuters) – Japan plans to add $ 6.75 billion to its already record annual military spending to bolster its air and sea defenses as it grows concerned about threats posed by China and North Korea.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s government approved the expenditure on Friday as part of a supplementary budget. While such additions to defense spending are common, the 774 billion yen that lawmakers will be asked to approve is the highest amount on record, according to Japan’s Defense Ministry.

“As the security environment around Japan worsens at an unprecedented rate, our urgent task is to speed up the implementation of various projects,” the defense ministry said in its spending proposal.

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The cash injection will allow Japan, three months ahead of schedule, to modernize its surface-to-air missile launchers on islands along the East China Sea and Patriot PAC-3 missile batteries elsewhere, which constitute the last line of defense against any incoming North Korean warhead. .

China’s growing pressure on Taiwan is causing nervousness in Japan, as Beijing’s control over the island would bring Chinese forces around 100 kilometers (62 miles) from its territory and threaten major maritime trade routes that supply Japan with supplies. oil and other goods. It would also provide China with a basis for unhindered access to the Western Pacific.

The additional spending will also allow Japan to acquire anti-submarine missiles, maritime patrol planes and military cargo planes more quickly, the Defense Ministry said.

The additional military spending comes after Kishida’s ruling party in October included a target to nearly double defense spending to 2% of gross domestic product (GDP) in election pledges.

For decades, the pacifist nation stuck to a policy of keeping defense spending below 1% of GDP, easing concerns both at home and abroad about any revival of militarism that has led Japan to World War II.

The additional spending plan approved by Kishida’s government on Friday also includes prepayments to defense contractors for the purchase of equipment to help them cope with disruptions from the coronavirus pandemic that have hurt their finances.

The proposed additional spending combined with the approved defense spending for the year through March 31 is about 1.3% of Japan’s GDP.

($ 1 = 114,6300 yen)

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Reporting by Tim Kelly; Editing by Kim Coghill

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