Japan plans biggest defence spending rise in 22 years
Japan plans to spend on tilt-rotor aircraft such as the Osprey built by Boeing and Textron’s Bell Helicopter unit
Japan's Defence Ministry will seek a three per cent increase in next year's budget allocation, the biggest rise in 22 years.
Most of the growth is linked to revised personnel costs and equipment imports made more expensive by a weaker yen, but the budget request for the year from April 2014 comes as Japan remains locked in a territorial spat with Chinaover uninhabited East China Sea islets, fraying ties between Asia's two biggest economies and raising security concerns.
The ministry said it planned to request 4.82tn yen (£31.68bn) in budget appropriations, up 3 per cent from the current year. The ministry's spending plans for the next fiscal year include research on unmanned high-altitude surveillance planes and tilt-rotor aircraft, with actual purchases tentatively planned for the following year.
Japan hopes that tilt-rotor aircraft such as the Osprey and drones including Northrop Grumman Corp's Global Hawk will help it better defend remote islands. The Osprey, built by Boeing and Textron’s Bell Helicopter unit, can fly as quickly as a plane but lands like a helicopter.
"In order to respond effectively to attacks on islands, it is indispensable to securely maintain superiority in the air as well as on the sea," a ministry release on the budget request said.
Saddled with hefty public debt, Japan had been cutting its defence spending in recent years, but Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who returned to power last December for a rare second term pledging to stand tough in the islands row, increased this year's defence budget for the first time in 11 years.
Earlier this month Japan unveiled its largest warship since the Second World War – the 250m long helicopter carrier JDS Izumo.
But following the earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan's northeast in March 2011, government workers' salaries were cut by 7.8 per cent on average to help finance reconstruction, and when that temporary measure is expires next March the Defence Ministry's personnel costs will be boosted by about 100bn yen for the next fiscal year.
Since Japan purchased three of the disputed islets, called the Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, from a private Japanese owner last September, patrol ships from both countries have been shadowing each other near the islands, raising fears that an unintended collision could lead to a broader clash.
Japan also faces potential threats from North Korea's nuclear and missile programmes. The Defence Ministry plans to set aside 1.7bn yen next year to prepare for the stationing of Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) missile interceptors at its Tokyo headquarters.
In another move to strengthen its defences, the ministry aims to set up a force of Marines as soon as possible and plans to earmark 1.5bn yen next year to introduce training facilities to improve its members' amphibious capabilities.
Japan's Coast Guard, whose ships are playing cat-and-mouse with Chinese vessels around the disputed islets, is requesting a 13 per cent increase in funding to 196.3bn yen for the next fiscal year as it builds new patrol ships and piers.
The Coast Guard aims to boost the size of its staff by 528 people, which would be the largest personnel expansion in decades. It also plans to order 10 patrol vessels.
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