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Spending upped by ¥40 billion, SDF ranks by 287

Defense outlays see first rise in 11 years

Kyodo

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government said Tuesday it will effectively expand defense spending for the first time in 11 years in its draft fiscal 2013 budget, in the wake of the growing assertiveness of China around Japan-controlled islets in the East China Sea.

The defense budget for the next fiscal year starting April 1 totals ¥4.754 trillion, up ¥40 billion from the previous year, reflecting the government’s goal of strengthening the Self-Defense Forces in order to bolster border defense, officials said.

It also plans to add 287 more members to the SDF, which is currently about 228,000-strong, for the first increase in eight years, the officials said. The annual addition will be the biggest personnel increase in 20 years.

The expansion of manpower is aimed at strengthening intelligence-gathering and monitoring efforts, a Finance Ministry official said.

Abe, who returned to power last month vowing to “resolutely protect” Japanese territory, has pledged to expand the country’s surveillance and warning capabilities following a recent spate of Chinese intrusions into Japanese territorial waters near the Senkaku Islands, which China claims and calls Diaoyu, have increased since the previous government led by the Democratic Party of Japan purchased three of the five main islets from their Japanese owner in September, effectively nationalizing the chain and sparking a harsh outcry in China.

Japan scrambled fighter jets 160 times in response to Chinese aircraft approaching Japanese airspace in the April-December period, already surpassing the record high set in the whole of fiscal 2011.

In the draft budget, the government earmarked ¥13.5 billion for fueling, maintenance and data transmission costs for the Air Self-Defense Force’s Airborne Warning and Control Systems, as well as E-2C airborne early warning planes, to strengthen the country’s warning and monitoring capabilities.

For defense of islands such as the Nansei chain in the East China Sea, the government allocated ¥2.5 billion to purchase four amphibious vehicles.

It will also spend ¥29.9 billion to acquire two F-35 stealth fighters to bolster airspace defenses, while separately earmarking ¥83.0 billion for domestic firms’ participation in manufacturing the ASDF’s next-generation mainstay fighters.

The budget also includes an outlay of ¥6.9 billion to modernize six ASDF F-15 fighters.

The fiscal 2013 defense budget comes in line with the government’s provisional defense goals adopted last week to cope with an “increasingly severe” regional security environment, with North Korea remaining an “uncertain factor” and China showing “increased activity” in airspace and waters near Japan.

ODA spending cut

The government said Tuesday it will cut its overall foreign aid by 0.7 percent, or ¥3.9 billion, from a year earlier to ¥557.3 billion in the general account budget for fiscal 2013, which begins on April 1, marking the 14th straight year of decline.

But the total size of the country’s official development assistance, when including such outlays as yen-denominated loans and contributions to international organizations, is set to grow by 2 percent from the year before to ¥1.88 trillion in calendar 2013.