Self-Defense Forces personnel train for operations around remote islands.
TOKYO -- The latest budget proposal includes the biggest defense outlays ever, reflecting Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's ambitions for expanded military capabilities to fend off an increasingly assertive China.
Defense spending will rise 2% from the previous fiscal year to 4.98 trillion yen ($42.3 billion), up for the third year in a row. The figure surpasses 5 trillion yen when the roughly 95 billion yen in defense expenditures earmarked in the supplementary budget is included.
While campaigning in last year's lower house election, Abe repeatedly stressed the need to defend Japanese sovereignty and territory. The draft budget includes funding to create a Self-Defense Forces unit tasked with retaking remote islands -- apparently envisioning the disputed Senkaku Islands, which China calls the Diaoyu and claims as its own.
Plans call for introducing five Osprey transport planes, capable of vertical takeoffs and landings, and 30 amphibious vehicles to strengthen the SDF's ability to deploy personnel to remote islands. Twenty domestically produced P-1 patrol planes and six F-35 state-of-the-art stealth fighters will be purchased to ramp up surveillance in the East China Sea.
Bigger fleetThe Japan Coast Guard will get a significantly bigger budget. Its expenditures, including maintenance of patrol ships and aircraft, will surge 52% to 37.1 billion yen. To strengthen security around the Senkakus, the agency will launch six large patrol ships now under construction, completing a force totaling 12 vessels and roughly 600 personnel that will monitor the islands around the clock.
With a possible U.S. visit this spring on his schedule, Abe ensured that the budget reflects his intention of accelerating the reorganization of American forces in Japan. In Okinawa Prefecture, land reclamation work off the coast of Henoko is slated to begin as early as summer as part of the planned relocation of the U.S. military's Futenma air base. Costs related to the realignment of American forces, including the Futenma base relocation, will grow about 60% to 142.6 billion yen.