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Japan requests record $50 billion defense budget in eighth straight increase

Japan’s defense ministry on Friday, August 30 requested a record $50.3 billion budget to fund purchases of fighter jets and missile defense as the country eyes the threat from North Korea and China.

The 5.32 trillion yen ($50.3 billion) request for the year from April is 1.2% higher than last year’s $47 billion budget, marking an eighth straight increase.

The funds are intended to pay for big-ticket items, including six state-of-the-art F35-B fighters capable of vertical takeoffs, as well as the upgrade of two existing destroyers to serve as aircraft carriers for F35-Bs.

The budget also seeks money for the ongoing purchase of U.S.-made Aegis Ashore missile defense systems and the development of a Japanese next-generation fighter jet.

Japan’s gradually expanding defense budget reflects the policies of hawkish Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who has steadily upgraded the nation’s military in the face of missile and nuclear threats from North Korea and increased military activity in the region by China and Russia.

Abe has also courted U.S, President Donald Trump by actively purchasing U.S. military products and repeatedly highlighting the Washington alliance as a cornerstone of Japan’s diplomacy.

The budget request comes as Japan’s relations with fellow U.S. ally South Korea hit a new low over issues related to World War Two and Japan’s brutal occupation of the Korean peninsula.

But Japanese officials said South Korea’s recent decision to scrap a bilateral agreement on military intelligence sharing did not affect the budget request.

The new budget also puts an emphasis on expanding Japan’s defense capabilities in “new domains, such as space, cyber and electromagnetic spectrum,” the ministry said in a statement accompanying the draft budget.

The ministry plans a 4.0-billion yen ($38-million) program to study the use of electromagnetic waves to disrupt communication of enemy forces.

The program will also include purchases of tools to analyze efforts to interfere with Japanese satellites using electromagnetic waves.

And the ministry wants to develop aircraft and vehicles capable of disrupting radar and radio signals from enemy forces.

The budget foresees the creation of a 20-member “space mission” team to ensure Japan’s defense capacity in space, the ministry said.

The team will first train specialists in space defense by analyzing activities of other militaries as well as learning from the U.S. force, a Japanese air force official said.

Japan looks to boost naval capabilities in face of emerging China submarine threat

With reporting from AFP

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