Japan approves record defence budget amid China threats

Japan approved a defence budget of 5.4 trillion yen. PHOTO: JMSDF/FACEBOOK

TOKYO (BLOOMBERG) - Japan's Cabinet approved on Friday (Dec 24) a record defence budget of 5.4 trillion yen (S$64 billion) for the year starting in April, as it seeks to bolster its ability to fend off threats from neighbouring China.

The figure marks the 10th straight increase in annual defence spending and exceeds a ceiling of 1 per cent of gross domestic product that the pacifist country has largely maintained for decades.

The plan follows record defence spending in a supplementary budget passed by Parliament this week.

Japan's military budget is modest by comparison with its ally the US, at an estimated US$778 billion (S$1 trillion) for 2020, and China at US$252 billion, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

The overall budget must be passed by Parliament before it is officially enacted next year.

Ties between Japan and China turned increasingly chilly after Beijing's clampdown on Hong Kong in 2020 and ships from both countries continue to chase one another around islands they both claim in the East China Sea.

Japanese officials, including Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, have also become increasingly outspoken about the need to prepare for a contingency around Taiwan.

The current year's extra budget and next year's budget together include 79 billion yen for space-related activities and 34 billion yen for cyber security projects, both up sharply on the previous year.

About 128 billion yen has also been set aside for 12 Lockheed-Martin F-35 planes.

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