Japan defence ministry seeks record budget in 2017 to upgrade missile system, fighter jets

PUBLISHED : Friday, 19 August, 2016, 2:07pm
UPDATED : Friday, 19 August, 2016, 11:41pm

Japan’s defence ministry will seek a record budget of 5.16 trillion yen (US$51 billion) for fiscal 2017, as tension rises in the East China Sea and North Korea steps up its missile threat, a government official with direct knowledge of the plan said.

The hike of 2.3 per cent over this year’s budget of 5.05 trillion yen marks the fifth successive annual increase sought by the ministry, which is keen to stiffen Japan’s defences as North Korea upgrades its ballistic missile technology.

However, the budget increase seemed insufficient, one security analyst said.

“I personally think it is not enough,” said Takashi Kawakami, a security expert at Japan’s Takushoku University. “The security environment surrounding Japan is severe, due to neighbouring North Korea and China.”

Japan’s defence paper to show wariness over China’s muscle-flexing

In line with usual practice, Japan will this month formally unveil budget requests for its defence and other ministries for the fiscal year ending March 2018.

The defence ministry’s request covers the 100 billion yen cost to upgrade Japan’s PAC-3 missile defence system, said the source, who declined to be identified, as he was not authorised to speak to the media.

Such an upgrade would roughly double the missile system’s range to more than 30km, other sources have said.

The budget proposal also includes the cost of production of the Block IIA version of the Standard Missile-3 system being jointly developed with the United States to shoot down missiles at higher altitudes, the source added.

Japan’s defence ministry will also allocate budget funds to acquire an upgraded version of the F-35 stealth fighter, made by US company Lockheed Martin Corp, the source said.

China's navy carries out ‘rare’ drills in Sea of Japan

Also included in the budget request is the cost of strengthening Japan’s coast guard in the southern islands of Miyakojima and Amami Oshima, to allay worries over neighbour China’s more assertive activities in the East China Sea, said the source.

Last month, Japan released its defence white paper which included a warning that Beijing’s militarisation of the disputed waters is making its territorial claims a fait accompli.

The white paper outlined China’s intensifying activities near the Senkaku islands which China also claims and calls it Diaoyu. It noted that a Chinese navy ship last month sailed in a contiguous zone just outside the territorial waters around the Senkaku Islands.

It also said the number of times that Japan has scrambled its Air Self-Defence Force fighter jets against Chinese aircraft approaching its airspace is rising sharply.

Tension mounted this month after a growing number of Chinese coast guard and other vessels sailed near disputed islets in the East China Sea.

Japan, China and South Korea are in talks to hold a meeting of their foreign ministers next week, Japanese media said this week. China’s foreign ministry admitted the three were in talks, but revealed no date for the meeting.

Additional reporting by Kyodo