Japan's defence agency has won the battle for a prized upgrade to ministerial status on the eve of a controversial despatch of an Aegis-class destroyer to the Indian Ocean. The Liberal Democratic Party and its two coalition partners (New Komeito and the New Conservative Party) struck an agreement to upgrade the Self Defence Agency to ministry status. While no definite time has been set for the agency to assume a more senior role in the Japanese bureaucracy, a bill will be submitted during the Diet session that convenes next month. Its passage is all but assured with backing of the three coalition parties. The upgrade is further proof of the expansion of the military's role and that issues involving the military are no longer taboo. With the world's fifth largest military budget and with more than 30,000 US troops stationed in Japan, there is a political case for an upgrade. However concerns have been expressed that any change in its status will give the military more political clout. The upgrade will see the introduction of future defence bills and the appointment of top officers through the cabinet. Currently, such decisions go to the prime minister before being submitted to cabinet. Traditionally Japanese prime ministers, with an average post-war shelf life in office of just 18 months, have had difficulty imposing their will on cabinets. Scenarios have been put forward that it will be all too possible for an embattled prime minister to be steamrolled into increasing the military budget, or being unable to stop a nationalist clique in cabinet setting defence policy. The agreement to boost the Self Defence Agency's status comes as an Aegis-equipped destroyer prepares to sail today for the Indian Ocean and possibly into the Gulf to support the US-led war on terror.