Defense spending hike covers pay: ministry

by Reiji Yoshida

Staff Writer

The Abe administration’s draft budget adopted Tuesday includes ¥4.88 trillion in defense spending in fiscal 2014, a 2.8 percent increase from this year.

But the Finance Ministry said most of this year’s increase is a result of the termination of special temporary salary cuts for Self-Defense Forces personnel and does not represent a substantial expansion in defense spending.

“The increase is not to beef up the ability of the Self-Defense Forces whatsoever,” a senior Finance Ministry official in charge of the defense budget said.

At the same time, the budget will allow the Defense Ministry to start introducing new equipment and weapons to help defend remote islands, in particular the Senkaku islets in the East China Sea that China and Taiwan also claim.

Fiscal 2014 will be the first year of a five-year medium-term defense buildup program that will see the introduction of 52 amphibious vehicles, three unmanned drones and 23 next-generation anti-submarine patrol aircraft, as well as 28 F-35A stealth fighters.

For starters, the ministry plans to allocate ¥59.4 billion in fiscal 2014 to buy three P-1 anti-sub jets, ¥15.8 billion to set up a radar monitoring facility on Yonaguni Island, about 110 km east of Taiwan and Japan’s westernmost island.

The government will also spend ¥63.8 billion to purchase four F-35A fighters in fiscal 2014.

The ministry plans to use ¥200 million for research into unmanned drones, and another ¥1.7 billion to buy two sample amphibious vehicles for feasibility studies.

Some ¥100 million will be used to study introduction of the U.S. military’s Osprey transport aircraft in fiscal 2014. Japan plans to buy 17 Ospreys by fiscal 2018 under the middle-term buildup program.

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, Japan’s military budget was the world’s fifth-largest in 2012, following the U.S., China, Russia and Britain.

In a related move, the administration plans to boost spending for the Japan Coast Guard by 5.5 percent to ¥183.4 billion next fiscal year.

The Coast Guard is preparing to take command of 10 new large patrol ships, four of which will go into service in fiscal 2014, and personnel numbers will be increased by 400 to beef up operations around the Senkaku Islands.

In total, the Coast Guard will dedicate 14 large patrol vessels to solely engage in missions around the Senkaku islets.