TOKYO • Japan plans to add 774 billion yen (S$9.3 billion) to its already record annual military spending in a rush to bolster air and maritime defences as it becomes more concerned about threats posed by China and North Korea.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida's government yesterday approved the outlay as part of a supplementary budget.
While such additions to defence spending are common, the 774 billion yen that lawmakers will be asked to approve is the largest amount ever, according to Japan's Ministry of Defence.
"As the security environment around Japan worsens at unprecedented speed, our urgent task is to accelerate the implementation of various projects," the ministry said in its spending proposal.
The cash injection will let Japan, three months earlier than planned, upgrade surface-to-air missile launchers on islands at the edge of the East China Sea and Patriot PAC-3 missile batteries elsewhere that are the last line of defence against any incoming North Korean warheads.
China's increasing pressure on Taiwan is causing jitters in Tokyo because Beijing's control of the island would bring Chinese forces within around 100km of its territory and would threaten key maritime trade routes that supply Japan with oil and other goods.
It would also provide China with bases for unfettered access to the western Pacific.
The extra spending will also allow Japan to more quickly acquire anti-submarine missiles, maritime patrol planes and military cargo jets, according to the ministry.
The additional military outlay comes after Mr Kishida's ruling party last month included a goal of almost doubling defence spending to 2 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) in election pledges.
For decades, the pacifist nation has stuck to a policy of keeping defence spending within 1 per cent of GDP, easing concerns both at home and overseas about any revival of the militarism that led Japan into World War II.
Japan is also aiming to strengthen ties with allies and friendly nations such as Australia, a point that former prime minister Shinzo Abe - who resigned last year but remains influential in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party - made yesterday while taking part in an online seminar organised by an Australian think-tank.
The additional spending plan approved by Mr Kishida's government yesterday also includes pre-payments to defence contractors for equipment to help them deal with coronavirus pandemic disruptions that have hurt their finances.
The proposed supplemental spending combined with defence outlays approved for the year to next March 31 comes to about 1.3 per cent of Japan's GDP.