Japan approves additional defense spending amid concerns about China’s growing power

Japan’s cabinet signed an additional $6.8 billion defense spending package as new Prime Minister Fumio Kishida signaled his concerns about China’s rising power.

In an unusual move that would send defense spending to a multi-decade high as a share of national income, Japan will forward purchases of patrol planes and surface-to-air missiles from next year’s budget. .

The decision highlights Tokyo’s growing concern about military tension across the Taiwan Strait as well as Kishida’s desire to send a clear statement of intent to defense spending to the Biden administration in Washington.

“With the severity of the national security environment surrounding our country increasing at a rate never seen before. . . Our urgent task is to speed up the implementation of various projects,” Japan’s Defense Ministry stated in its budget proposal.

It said the spending package would strengthen the country’s defenses against ballistic missiles, where the threat comes from. North Korea’s Nuclear Weapons, and around the southwestern islands of Japan.

While Japan often uses the supplementary budget to stimulate its economy, it rarely includes any substantial defense spending. Kishida’s package would bring total defense spending this year to 1.13% of gross domestic product – surpassing the unofficial limit of 1% and bringing military spending to its highest level since the 1950s.

In its manifesto for general election last month, Kishida’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party made an unprecedented pledge to increase defense spending to 2% of GDP, responding to demands from conservatives.

That goal is unlikely to be achieved in the foreseeable future, at the expense of Japan’s aging population and massive public debt, but the spending package will allow Kishida to show he’s working to keep his promises.

For 2022, the Department of Defense is asking for a 7% increase in spending from the original 2021 budget, although that total could be cut to reflect purchases included in the supplementary budget. .

Among the items Japan will buy soon are upgraded Patriot missiles, which provide a last line of defense against any North Korean attack, and surface-to-air missiles to protect military bases across the country. southwestern islands.

It will also purchase three P-1 maritime patrol aircraft – allowing Tokyo to monitor Chinese military activities in the waters around Japan – as well as torpedoes and upgraded anti-submarine weapons.

However, the largest part of the money is set aside to pay upfront to Japanese defense contractors to help them get through the pandemic. That shows Tokyo’s desire to support its industrial base, but also the peculiar nature of the supplementary budget, which falls outside the Defense Department’s usual plan.

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