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Japan’s Defence Ministry seeks record ¥5.4 trillion budget

The Defence Ministry on Wednesday requested a record ¥5.49 trillion ($55 billion) budget for the next fiscal year, which begins in April 2021, to expand its capability to counter possible threats in both cyber and outer space.  

The request is up 3.3 per cent from the initial budget for the current fiscal year through March 2021, with defence spending expected to rise. Japan’s defence spending has risen for eight consecutive years since 2013, a year after Shinzo Abe took office.

Purchases for missile deterrence are among the costliest items in the proposed 2021 budget and include Lockheed Martin Corp.’s F-35B stealth fighters capable of short take-off and vertical landing for 26 billion yen ($246 million). Japan has plans to acquire 42 F-35Bs in the coming years.

To accommodate the F-35Bs, the Defence Ministry is seeking 3.2 billion yen ($30 million) to reconfigure one of its two helicopter carriers, Kaga, with a heat-resistant flight deck. The other flat-top Izumo has also been configured.

The budget request includes ¥34.3 billion for the development of satellites for space surveillance. In the area of electromagnetic waves, special units will be stationed in five locations, including Rumoi in Hokkaido. The ministry plans to set up an electronic operations squadron at the Ground Self-Defence Force's Camp Asaka, straddling Tokyo and Saitama Prefecture, to manage, educate and train-related personnel. It seeks ¥8.8 billion to acquire electronic warfare equipment. In research and development for missiles, the ministry hopes to secure ¥22.9 billion for long-range high-speed glide missiles for island defence and ¥9.3 billion for hypersonic guided missiles that travel at over Mach 5.

The ministry is also seeking 58.7 billion yen ($556 million) for the research into developing next-generation fighter jets to replace F-2s retiring in the 2030s. Japan plans to develop its own engine but is also considering co-developing some other parts with the U.S. and Britain.

Abe in 2015 reinterpreted Japan’s pacifist constitution to allow the use of force in defending itself and its allies. Japan’s defence spending now ranks among the world’s top 10, according to Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

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