Japan eyes 56% increase in defence budget over 5 years

Growing pressure from China has helped build support for a bigger budget for Japan. PHOTO: REUTERS

TOKYO - Japan Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has instructed ministers to boost the country’s defence budget by 56 per cent over the next five years to 43 trillion yen (S$427.5 billion).

The government is overhauling its defence and security strategies in response to regional threats from nuclear-armed North Korea and an increasingly assertive China.

Defence Minister Yasukazu Hamada on Monday said Mr Kishida told him that “the size of the medium-term defence programme for the next five years, which is currently being arranged, should be around 43 trillion yen”.

“This is a level at which we can achieve the goal of strengthening our defence capability,” Mr Hamada said after talks with Mr Kishida and the finance minister. The amount would be more than 1.5 times the current five-year spending plan of 27.5 trillion yen.

The decision comes a week after Mr Kishida announced that he wants to increase defence spending to 2 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) by 2027.

For decades, Japan has spent around 1 per cent of GDP or less on defence, less than the Nato standard of 2 per cent.

But growing pressure from China, including military exercises around disputed islands, has helped build support for a bigger budget. The war in Ukraine and repeated missile launches by North Korea have also sharpened views.

The move is controversial in Japan for several reasons, however, including the country’s post-war Constitution, which limits its military capacity to ostensibly defensive measures.

Japanese media reports say one target of additional spending would be “counterstrike” capacity – weapons that can target enemy missile launch sites and described by Tokyo as defensive. AFP

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