On December 21st, Japan’s government, headed by Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga approved a ninth consecutive rise in military spending.
Allegedly with pure defense in mind, the record-high 5.34 trillion yen ($51.7 billion) is aimed at funding the development of an advanced stealth fighter and longer-range anti-ship missile to counter China’s growing military power.
This is a 1.1% increase from 2020’s budget.
Suga is continuing the military expansion pursued by his predecessor, Shinzo Abe, to give Japan’s forces new planes, missiles and aircraft carriers with greater range and potency against potential foes including neighboring China.
China plans to raise its military spending 6.6% this year, the smallest increase in 30 years, so it’s Tokyo’s time to “catch up”.
Japan is buying longer-range missiles and considering arming and training its military to strike distant land targets in China, North Korea and other parts of Asia.
Tokyo is one of the United States’ allies, which Washington wishes to pit against China in a potential conflict.
Another one is South Korea, albeit Japan and South Korea could very loosely be considered allies.
A planned jet fighter, the first in three decades, is expected to cost around $40 billion and be ready in the 2030s.
The project, led by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd with help from Lockheed Martin Corp, gets $706 million in the new budget.
Japan will spend $323 million to begin development of a long-range anti-ship missile to defend its southwestern Okinawan island chain.
Another big investment is $628 million for six Lockheed F-35 stealth fighters, including two short-takeoff and vertical-landing (STOVL) B variants that will operate off a converted helicopter carrier.
The military will also get $912 million to build two compact warships that can operate with fewer sailors than conventional destroyers, easing pressure on a navy struggling to find recruits in an ageing population.
Japan also wants two new warships to carry powerful new US-made Aegis air and ballistic missile defense systems that have much as three times the range of older models.
This replaces the project cancelled in June to construct two ground Aegis Ashore stations.
It should be reminded that the Aegis Ashore and the normal Aegis can be repurposed from a defense system to launch nuclear-ready Tomahawk missiles.
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