TOKYO (REUTERS) - Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's government on Thursday (Dec 22) approved an increase in defence spending to record levels to counter growing Chinese military power in the East China Sea and an escalating North Korean ballistic missile threat.
Mr Abe's cabinet signed off on a 1.4-per-cent increase in spending to 5.13 trillion yen (S$63 billion) for the year starting April 1.
If approved by lawmakers, which is highly likely given the ruling Liberal Democratic Party's control of parliament, it will be the fifth straight annual increase in outlays.
Under Mr Abe, Japan's Self Defence Forces are pivoting away from guarding the nation's north to reinforce an island chain stretching 1,400 km along the southern edge of the East China Sea.
That means fewer tank divisions in favour of building a mobile force equipped with hardware such as tilt-rotor Osprey carriers, ships, amphibious vehicles and mobile missile batteries.
Japan is also spending more to upgrade its ballistic missile defence, in response to advances in North Korea's ballistic missile programme.