Japan is moving to raise defense spending for a fifth straight year to a record 5.12 trillion yen ($43.6 billion) under the draft budget for fiscal 2017, which combined with an addition to this fiscal year’s budget almost fully meets the Defense Ministry’s requests.
As a result of threats posed by China and North Korea, the defense budget has essentially become off-limits to government efforts to curb spending.
The figure is 1.4% higher than in the original fiscal 2016 plans. The five-year string of increases “is based on our medium-term plan to bolster defense capabilities,” Defense Minister Tomomi Inada told reporters on Thursday. In terms of the 176.9 billion yen addition to defense spending under the third supplementary budget for fiscal 2016, she said: “Given the situation around Japan this year, I thought we needed to put the plan into effect as quickly as possible.”
The budget allocates significantly more funds for repairs, such as for ships and aircraft owned by the Self-Defense Forces. The figure rose by about 34 billion yen, with the forces wearing down surveillance equipment at a faster pace amid Chinese provocations in the East China Sea and North Korean rocket launches.
Another beefed-up area was acquisitions, where the tally rose by 17.7 billion yen. Because military equipment can be extremely expensive, it is generally paid off in stages within five years of purchase. Japan’s contributions for the U.S. military presence in the country remained flat.
The Japan Coast Guard was also assigned a record 210.6 billion yen — 12% more on the year, and even surpassing the 200.5 billion yen the agency originally asked for. The coast guard is expanding its patrol fleet to better monitor the disputed Senkaku Islands, which China calls the Diaoyu.