National

Defense Ministry requests ¥5.1 trillion for fiscal 2017 to address new threats

by Ayako Mie

Staff Writer

The government is requesting a bigger budget for security as North Korea’s nuclear provocations and China’s military assertiveness continue to unsettle the region, and the Dhaka terror attack showed ordinary Japanese are also at risk.

The Defense Ministry on Wednesday submitted its fiscal 2017 budget request totaling more than ¥5.1 trillion, up 2.3 percent from the fiscal 2016 budget. The defense budget request has been increasing for the last five years, and this is the third year in a row the amount exceeded ¥5 trillion.

The ministry requested more than ¥100 billion to strengthen the intercept capability of the Patriot Advanced Capability (PAC-3) missiles to better counter North Korea’s enhanced missile capability. The ministry also requested ¥14.7 billion to introduce the Standard Missile-3 Block IIA, which will intercept missiles in outer space.

To counter China’s increasing military assertiveness in the East China Sea, the ministry is requesting almost ¥75 billion to deploy Ground Self-Defense Force patrol units on Miyako Island in Okinawa Prefecture and on Amami Island in Kagoshima Prefecture. Almost ¥9 billion will likely be earmarked for creating an amphibious unit to protect remote islands.

Some ¥94 billion is also sought to procure Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II stealth fighters to better secure Japan’s air supremacy in the event of a crisis. The stealth jet will be rolled out in mid-September at Lockheed Martin’s Fort Worth factory in Texas.

The defense budget boost comes amid the increasingly bellicose behavior of North Korea and China.

The North last week claimed to have successfully test-fired a submarine-launched ballistic missile, which would be difficult to intercept with the current missile defense system.

Chinese spy ships have been entering Japanese territorial waters despite Japan’s strong protests, while Air Self-Defense Force fighter jets scrambled a record 199 times against Chinese aircraft near Japanese airspace between April and June.

To counter the worsening security situation, the Japan Coast Guard also is also seeking a bigger budget — of more than ¥200 billion, up 7 percent from the previous year.

Last year, the Coast Guard formed a special unit to patrol the Japan- administered Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea. The uninhabited islets are also claimed by China and Taiwan, and called Diaoyu and Tiaoyutai, respectively.

The budget to patrol around the remote isles increased by almost 19 percent this year to almost ¥47 billion, which will partly be spent to deploy 190 new personnel in an effort to beef up patrols.

Meanwhile, the Foreign Ministry on Wednesday submitted a budget request totaling ¥773 billion, up more than 8 percent from last year, mainly focusing on official development assistance and counterterrorism.

Japan’s ODA spending peaked in 1997, while global powers have aggressively spent funds in financial assistance. But last year Tokyo increased its ODA budget for the first time in 17 years, and this year’s request also increased by 13 percent to more than ¥490 billion.

Some ¥11 billion in ODA money is requested for capacity-building in maritime patrols. Japan has been aggressively providing patrol vessels to its Southeast Asian neighbors as part of ODA, but the budget has more than doubled this year.

The ministry is also beefing up security at overseas schools catering to Japanese students, following the terror attack in Dhaka that left seven Japanese nationals among the dead. The ministry said it is requesting more than ¥1 billion to upgrade the facility, such as through building taller walls and installing iron bars on the windows to prevent attackers from entering the schools.