TOKYO • The government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is requesting another increase in spending on Japan's armed forces, with a plan to expand missile defences that would test the nation's commitment to pacifism and escalate a regional arms race with China and North Korea.
With rising threats from North Korea's nuclear and ballistic missile programme and repeated incursions by Chinese ships into waters surrounding a string of islands claimed by Japan, the request would let the ministry develop new anti-ballistic missiles and place troops on southern islands closer to the chain in dispute with China.
If approved, the budget proposal for 5.17 trillion yen(S$68.5 billion) formally submitted yesterday would be the nation's fifth straight annual increase in military spending. It is a 2.3 per cent rise over last year.
The request includes proposals to develop and potentially purchase new anti-ballistic missiles that can be launched from ships or land, and to upgrade and extend the range of the country's current land-based missile defence systems, a significant expansion of Japan's missile defence capabilities.
The budget also details plans to buy an additional submarine and new fighter aircraft, and to put close to 1,300 soldiers from the Self-Defence Force, Japan's military, on the southern islands of Kagoshima and Okinawa. These locations are closer to the Senkaku islands, the chain of islands where both China and Japan claim territorial rights.
Despite Japan's long-standing post-war pacifism, initially imposed by a Constitution that was largely written by US occupiers, the country has long argued that the Constitution does not prevent it from maintaining defensive equipment and troops.
The budget deliberations come as Mr Abe's government is reconsidering the country's pacifist stance. The Japanese leader has long expressed his interest in revising the clause in the Constitution that says the country must "forever renounce war".
NEW YORK TIMES