The Defense Ministry is seeking a fourth-straight annual budget hike to help fortify Japan’s far-flung island chain in the East China Sea, close to ocean territory claimed by Beijing.
In a document submitted to the government Monday, the ministry asked for a 2.2 percent increase in spending to ¥5.09 trillion for the year starting in April. If approved, it will be the biggest defense budget in 14 years.
China’s military budget for this year rose 10.1 percent to 886.9 billion yuan ($138.37 billion), the second-largest in the world after the United States. Japan’s budget request is worth $42.38 billion in dollar terms.
The Defense Ministry wants to buy AAV-7 amphibious assault vehicles made by BAE Systems, F-35 stealth warplanes made by Lockheed Martin Corp. and Osprey tilt-rotor transport aircraft from Boeing Co. under the budget plan, according to the document.
Other purchases would include Global Hawk drones made by Northrop Grumman Corp. mobile missile batteries, helicopters and other equipment the Self-Defense Forces want to defend island-dotted ocean territory stretching 1,400 km from the Japanese mainland almost to Taiwan.
Money would also be allocated to building and extending military bases along the island chain, the document added.
As China’s military power grows, Japan is shifting from defending its northern borders from a diminished Russian threat with tanks and heavy armor to deploying a lighter, more mobile force in the East China Sea and the Western Pacific
By bolstering its military presence on islands with radar stations, troop bases or missile batteries, Japan could gain a tactical advantage over China, which, because it has far fewer islands under its control in the region, would have to rely more on naval vessels or ocean platforms.
Japan and China contest ownership of the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea.
Only 150 km south of the outcroppings, Japan is building a military radar station on Yonaguni Island, home to 1,500 people.
In the budget request, defense officials have allocated ¥11 billion to expand a base on Miyakojima, 300 km east of Yonaguni and ¥8.7 billion for base construction on Amami-Oshima, an island halfway between Okinawa Island, home to the largest contingent of U.S. Marines in Asia, and the Japanese mainland.
The Osprey troop carrying aircraft, amphibious assault vehicles and new maneuverable armored fighting vehicles on the Defense Ministry’s shopping list will bolster a force including Japan’s first detachment of marines since World War II.