Japan eyes S$63b defence budget to counter North Korea: Nikkei daily

Japan Ground Self-Defence Force members taking part in an urban warfare drill during a joint military exercise with the US Army. PHOTO: REUTERS

TOKYO (AFP) - Japan plans a record 5.19 trillion yen (S$63 billion) defence budget for the next fiscal year to strengthen its missile defence against the threat posed by North Korea, a report said on Saturday (Dec 16).

The government is expected to set aside the money for defence in the country's initial budget proposal for the fiscal year starting April 2018, the Nikkei daily said.

It will mark the sixth straight year of increases in defence outlays, topping the 5.12 trillion yen budget for the current fiscal year, the business daily said.

Much of the increase will go towards protecting Japan against North Korea's nuclear weapons and missile development, the newspaper said.

The extra funding will cover the cost of preparations for introducing the US military's Aegis Ashore land-based missile interceptor system, the Nikkei said.

Last week, Japan's defence minister Itsunori Onodera said the country plans to purchase long-range cruise missiles, with a range of some 900km, from US firms.

The move is controversial as Japan's pacifist Constitution bans the use of force as a means of settling international disputes.

Global anxiety about North Korea has steadily risen this year, with Washington calling on other United Nations members to cut ties with Pyongyang to squeeze the secretive regime.

The US, however, has failed to persuade key North Korean backers China and Russia to take steps to isolate the regime.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.