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Japan’s Defense Ministry to request record ¥5.3 trillion budget for fiscal 2019

JIJI

The Defense Ministry is considering making a record request of over ¥5.3 trillion for the fiscal 2019 budget, informed sources said.

The amount will be over ¥100 billion bigger than its initial budget for fiscal 2018 because of the plan to buy into Aegis Ashore, a land-based missile defense system built by the U.S., the sources said Friday.

The ministry plans to deploy Aegis Ashore batteries in Akita and Yamaguchi prefectures amid uncertainties over North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs and China’s military buildup.

But Aegis Ashore will be costly. The two sophisticated radars involved are expected to cost a combined ¥267.9 billion.

The ministry’s initial budget for fiscal 2018, which began in April, came to a record ¥5.19 trillion, up for the sixth year straight.

The five-year defense program through fiscal 2018 allows the defense budget to grow 0.8 percent on average on an initial-budget basis. The ministry aims to accelerate that growth to one percent or more in its next defense program.

Making a record budget request for fiscal 2019, the first year of the next midterm defense program, would make it easier to achieve budget growth in the following fiscal years, sources familiar with the situation claimed.

The ministry plans to strengthen Japan’s defenses against ballistic missiles because it believes there has been no change in the threat posed by Pyongyang despite the historic U.S.-North Korea summit in June.

The ministry also sees a need to increase outlays to protect its southwestern islands in light of China’s increasing activities in the East China Sea.

The ministry’s wish list for fiscal 2019 will include F-35A stealth fighters. It eventually plans to buy a total of 42.

It also wants to invest in measures to prepare for nonmilitary threats in new defense frontiers including space, cybersecurity and electromagnetic waves.

At a meeting of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party on Thursday, the ministry explained a plan to build a system to carry out cross-domain operations involving the Ground, Maritime and Air Self-Defense Forces. The plan will be included in the defense program guidelines the government plans to revise at year-end.