Record HK$413 billion defence budget sought by Japanese government

Japanese government requests HK$413 billion in defence spending for shopping list that includes patrol planes and hi-tech submarine

PUBLISHED : Friday, 29 August, 2014, 6:51pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 30 August, 2014, 4:34pm

Japan's government has requested a record defence budget and is also seeking a big increase in spending on diplomacy to counter the growing influence of China.

The defence ministry announced yesterday that it would request a record 5.5 trillion yen (HK$413 billion) to buy stealth fighters, drones and a hi-tech submarine.

Japan's foreign ministry requested a 10.8 per cent increase in its budget for the fiscal year starting in April, which would take it to 738 billion yen.

The ministry wanted to set up more diplomatic offices and facilities around the world, Kyodo reported. This would include building a public relations and cultural promotion office, called Japan House, in six foreign cities, including Hong Kong.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been more assertive than his predecessors in raising the country's international profile and security presence.

In a key step away from the country's post-war pacifism, Abe's cabinet last month adopted a resolution enabling Japan's troops to come to the aid of allies with the approval of parliament.

Last year, Abe's administration raised its defence budget for the first time in 11 years, by 0.8 per cent to 4.68 trillion yen, raising eyebrows in China amid tensions over a territorial dispute in the East China Sea.

The defence ministry yesterday requested a 3.5 per cent increase in its budget as it seeks to bolster its ability to defend the disputed islands, called the Senkakus in Japan and Diaoyus in China.

With Chinese coastguard ships and military jets increasing activity in the area, Japan's defence ministry wants to buy six F-35 stealth fighters and 20 P-1 patrol planes. It is also seeking 64.4 billion yen for an upgraded Soryu class submarine.

Funds will also go towards the purchase of land on the Amami Islands between Okinawa and Kyushu for another military base.

China increased its defence budget by 12.2 per cent in March, bringing it to 808 billion yuan (HK$1.02 trillion). Between 2009 and 2013, military spending accounted for 2.1 per cent of gross domestic product for China, and 1 per cent for Japan.

Ties between China and Japan have hit a new low over their maritime disputes and a visit by Abe to the controversial Yasukuni Shrine, which China sees as a symbol of wartime militarism.

The leaders of the two countries have not met since Abe took office in late 2012.

There have been signs Abe and President Xi Jinping could meet on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Beijing in November.

Former Japanese prime minister Yasuo Fukuda, who met Xi in July, said Beijing had shown willingness to improve ties.

But foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang said yesterday that China had not changed its policy on improving relations with Japan. "Japan must face reality, show sincerity, take concrete actions and make efforts to eliminate political obstacles that affect the development of bilateral relations," Qin said.

Additional reporting by Kyodo, Reuters