Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe‘s government has sanctioned on Tuesday the spending of over 24.7 trillion yen (around US$239 billion) over five years to boost Japan’s military hardware, this amid China’s growing assertiveness in the region. Japan said that this five percent increase in military spending over the next five years is intended to beef up hardware for defense of far-flung territories amid strained relations with Beijing.
The cabinet of Prime Minister Abe agreed that the amount would be spent between 2014 and 2019, including the purchase of drones, submarines, fighter jets and amphibious vehicles, in a strategic shift towards the south and west. The shopping list is part of efforts by Abe to normalize Japan’s military forces, which has been officially pacifist since defeat in World War II. Its well-equipped and highly professional services are limited to a narrowly defined self-defensive role. As part of this spending spree, it was recently announced that Japan intends to buy itself a fleet of the highly controversial MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft, which can be useful in transporting troops and equipment to island territories.
The announcement of the military budget also comes with the establishment of a United States-style National Security Council that is expected to give greater power, responsibility and flexibility in the hands of a smaller number of senior politicians and bureaucrats. Fears are growing in Japan over the rising power of China, with the two countries embroiled in a dispute over the sovereignty of a group of islands. New defense guidelines have been approved by the cabinet on Tuesday, saying that the government will introduce a “dynamic joint defense force,” intended to help air, land and sea forces work together more effectively in the face of danger. “China is taking dangerous action that can draw unexpected contingencies,” said the guidelines.