Japan seeks biggest defence budget rise in 22 years

Japan seeks biggest defence budget rise in 22 years

The string of islands in the East China Sea involved in the dispute.

TOKYO - Japan's Defence Ministry said on Friday it was seeking a three per cent increase in next year's budget allocation, the biggest rise in 22 years, with most of the growth linked to revised personnel costs and equipment imports made more expensive by a weaker yen.

The budget request for the year from April 2014 comes as Japan remains locked in a territorial spat with China over uninhabited East China Sea islets, fraying ties between Asia's two biggest economies and raising security concerns.

Saddled with hefty public debt, Japan had been cutting its defence spending in recent years. But Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who returned to power last December for a rare second term pledging to stand tough in the islands row, increased this year's defence budget for the first time in 11 years.

The ministry said it planned to request 4.82 trillion yen (S$62.3 billion) in budget appropriations, up 3.0 per cent from the current year.

Following the earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan's northeast in March 2011, government workers' salaries were cut by 7.8 per cent on average to help finance reconstruction.

That temporary measure is set to expire next March, boosting the Defence Ministry's personnel costs by about 100 billion yen for the next fiscal year.

The ministry's spending plans for the next fiscal year include research on unmanned high-altitude surveillance planes and tilt-rotor aircraft, with actual purchases tentatively planned for the following year.

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