TOKYO Dec 20 Japan's defence budget will grow
2.2 percent in the next fiscal year from April, Defence Minister
Itsunori Onodera said on Friday, posting the biggest rise in
nearly two decades.
The budget increase comes as tension between Japan and China
simmers over tiny islands they both claim.
Japan's defence spending next year comes in at 4.78 trillion
yen ($45.86 billion), up 2.2 percent on the year, Onodera told
reporters after meeting Finance Minister Taro Aso. That would be
the biggest percentage rise in 18 years and mark the second
consecutive year of growth.
The Defence Ministry has said, however, much of the budget
growth next year will be linked to higher cost of equipment
imports due to a weaker yen, and the end in March of temporary
pay cuts for government workers aimed to help finance
reconstruction after a 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
Saddled with hefty public debt, Japan had cut its defence
spending for 10 straight years through to 2012, before Prime
Minister Shinzo Abe, who returned to power a year ago pledging
to bolster Japan's defence posture, raised defence expenditure
by 0.8 percent this year.
"This is quite satisfactory for the Defence Ministry. We
will carry on defending Japan's safety securely," Onodera said.
In the latest flare-up in tension between Japan and China,
Beijing last month declared a new air defence identification
zone in an area that includes disputed East China Sea islets,
triggering protests from Tokyo as well as Washington and Seoul.
The budget decision comes on the heels of new defence
guidelines and military build-up plans, unveiled this week,
which call for a 2.6 percent rise in defence spending for five
years starting next April.
Asked if the 2014/15 budget was enough to implement the
five-year build-up plan, Onodera said: "I believe we have
received enough. But there is a precondition of tight fiscal
situation. We need to work hard to cut costs and streamline
whenever possible when it comes to equipment and training."
The government is in the final stages of compiling next
year's draft budget, which will be approved by Abe's cabinet on
The Defence Ministry's initial budget request, submitted to
the Ministry of Finance in August, has been trimmed by 0.7
Items in the budget request include 69.3 billion yen for
four of Lockheed Martin's F-35 fighter jets, 73.3
billion yen to build a destroyer with improved capability to
detect submarines and 77.3 billion yen to buy four P-1 patrol
planes made by Kawasaki Heavy Industries.
Japan also plans to allocate 300 million yen for research on
surveillance drones and tilt-rotor aircraft, with an eye to
procuring them in the year starting April 2015, the budget
Japan hopes that tilt-rotor aircraft such as the Osprey and
unmanned aircraft including Northrop Grumman Corp's
Global Hawk will help it better defend remote islands, including
the contested East China Sea isles, called the Senkaku in Japan
and Diaoyu in China.
The Osprey, built by Boeing Co and Textron Inc's
Bell Helicopter unit, can fly as quickly as a plane but
lands like a helicopter. In the five-year build-up plan, Japan
aims to buy 28 F-35s, 17 tilt-rotor aircraft and three drones.
When costs associated with the realignment of U.S. forces in
Japan are included, defence-related spending next year will
reach 4.88 trillion yen, up 2.8 percent from this year, sources
with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters.