..credited to Japan Today
TOKYO —Japan’s defense budget in fiscal 2017 could hit a record high of around 5.1 trillion yen ($44.64 billion), a government source said Thursday, as the country seeks to cope with security challenges amid China’s maritime assertiveness and North Korea’s missile threats.
It would mark the fifth straight year of increases in the country’s defense budget, which also includes costs linked to the realignment of U.S. forces in Japan. Defense spending has been on an uptrend since the fiscal 2013 budget compiled under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe who returned to power in December 2012.
The government is also considering boosting defense spending in an extra budget expected to be compiled later this month for fiscal 2016 through next March, according to the source.
In view of China’s maritime assertiveness, Japan is trying to beef up its defenses of remote islands, especially in and around Okinawa Prefecture, southwestern Japan, enhance capabilities to intercept ballistic missiles from North Korea, and boost space and cybersecurity.
Still, the envisaged increase in defense budget comes in contrast to Japan’s efforts to rein in spending on social welfare and education.
The defense budget for fiscal 2012 compiled under the government of the then Democratic Party of Japan, the predecessor of the main opposition Democratic Party, stood at 4.71 trillion yen. It topped 5 trillion yen for the first time in fiscal 2016 when the figure came to 5.05 trillion yen.
Under a five-year defense program through fiscal 2018, the government expects an average annual rise of 0.8 percent for defense spending.
Funds allocated for the realignment of U.S. forces are expected to increase from 179.4 billion yen in the current fiscal year, according to the source.
The funds will be used to help transfer some U.S. Marines to Guam from Okinawa where the bulk of U.S. military facilities in Japan are concentrated, and move U.S. carrier-borne fighter jets from the U.S. Navy’s Atsugi base in Kanagawa Prefecture, southwest of Tokyo, to a base in Iwakuni, Yamaguchi Prefecture in western Japan.