File pic of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe
TOKYO: Japan’s defence ministry made its biggest ever budget request, as Tokyo bolsters its military amid worries over China’s expanding naval reach.
The ministry wants ¥5.05 trillion (RM153bil) for the year, with the focus on boosting protection of a string of southern islands that stretches from Kyushu to waters near Taiwan.
The request, if approved, would mark the third straight annual defence budget increase and a 3.5% rise from the budget for the current fiscal year, which ends in March 2015.
The trend reflects Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s wish to build a more active military, with an eye on a possible escalation of tensions with China.
Japan is increasingly wary of Beijing, which is seen by several countries in the region as becoming increasingly aggressive in various sovereignty claims, including a suppurative row over island ownership with Tokyo.
Among items on the defence ministry’s shopping list are 20 P1 maritime patrol aircraft, with a combined price tag of ¥378bil (RM11.4bil).
It also wants five MV-22 Osprey – crossover aircraft that have the manoeuverability of helicopters and the range of airplanes – along with three Global Hawk drones and six high-tech F-35 stealth fighters.
The ministry also wants to set aside money to launch a new amphibious brigade, to be assigned to protect the Nansei Shoto islands, which lie between the East China Sea and Pacific Ocean.
The augmented budget request comes after the Abe Cabinet decided late last year to set aside roughly ¥24.7 trillion yen (RM749bil) between 2014 and 2019 to spend on things, including drones, submarines, fighter jets and amphibious vehicles, in a strategic shift towards the south and west. — AFP