Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s government approved a ninth straight increase in the nation’s defense budget as the government bolsters funding to develop longer-range cruise missiles and advanced stealth fighters to counter potential threats from China and North Korea. The Ministry of Defense will get a record 5.34 trillion yen (US$51.7 billion) for the year starting in April, up 1.1 percent from this year. With Suga’s large majority in parliament, enactment of the budget is all but certain. It is set for parliamentary approval early next year as part of a 106 trillion yen national budget totaling for the fiscal year beginning in April.
Suga is continuing military expansion pursued by his predecessor to give Japan’s forces new planes, missiles and aircraft carriers with greater range and potency against potential foes including neighbouring China. A large chunk of the budget plan goes to reinforce Japan’s missile capability, including 33.5 billion yen to develop extended-range anti-ship missiles that can be fired from destroyers or fighter jets, as well as 14.9 billion yen to purchase JSM extended-range missiles loaded on F-35 stealth fighters. Japan’s new missile deterrence plan would allow Japan to expand missile deployment in areas including islands it controls in the East China Sea that are also claimed by Beijing.
Japanese government in 2015 reinterpreted Japan’s pacifist constitution to allow the use of force in defending itself and its allies. For fiscal 2021, Japan will spend 65 billion yen to purchase two F-35Bs and four F-35As as part of the country’s plan to have more than 150 F-35s. The 2021 budget would also spend 731 billion yen to develop Japan’s own next-generation F-X stealth fighter to replace its aging fleet of F-2s. Japan chose Lockheed Martin as a main candidate to provide integration support for increased interoperability with the U.S. and work with Japan’s main contractor Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.
Japan also wants two new warships to carry powerful new Aegis air and ballistic missile defence radars that have much as three times the range of older models. The government has not yet estimated the cost of the plan, which replaces a project cancelled in June to construct two ground Aegis Ashore stations. Japan will spend US$323 million to begin development of a long-range anti-ship missile to defend its southwestern Okinawan island chain. The military will also get US$912 million to build two compact warships that can operate with fewer sailors than conventional destroyers, easing pressure on a navy struggling to find recruits in an aging population. Japan’s defense spending now ranks among the world’s top 10, according to Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).