Japan sets record defense budget with eyes on China, N Korea
Casting a wary eye to threats from its west, Japan will invest billions of dollars in new submarines, ships and stealth fighter aircraft under a record defense budget approved by the Cabinet on Thursday, CNN reports.
The $44 billion (5.1 trillion yen) Defense Ministry spending plan puts a focus on defending the Senkaku Islands, the chain in the East China Sea administered by Japan but also claimed by China, which calls them the Diaoyus.The budget includes billions of yen for six new submarines equipped with improved sensor technology that could also prove useful against Chinese challenges.
The subs can "deal with attacks against the islets," the budget says.
Analysts consider the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force's submarine fleet to be one of its core strengths, with its focus on a specific mission - defense.
"The Japanese government since the 1950s has carefully invested in its submarine program and basically perfected not only the technology but the procurement process," said Corey Wallace, Japan security analyst at Freie University in Berlin.
In a separate Transport Ministry budget, the Cabinet approved a 12% increase for the nation's Coast Guard, again with an emphasis on protecting the Senkakus.
Japan is expected to add several new ships to the Coast Guard, including one capable of carrying a helicopter, according to the Transport budget.
The area around Senkakus has been the site of repeated confrontations between Japanese and Chinese forces this year.
Earlier this month, China's Defense Ministry said that the Japanese jets "interfered with Chinese military aircraft from close range and even launched jamming shells, which endangered the safety of Chinese aircraft and crew."
Japan said that fighter jets were scrambled when six Chinese military aircraft "trespassed" into its territorial waters in the Miyako Strait, near the Senkakus.