Japan defence ministry seeks record budget over North Korea threat


Japan’s defence ministry has requested a record budget as it seeks to counter North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats and respond to growing Chinese air and naval activity in the region. If approved by the cabinet and parliament later this year, the 5.3tn yen (£37bn) budget would be a 2.1% increase on last year and the seventh consecutive rise under Japan’s conservative prime minister, Shinzo Abe.

The budget request, released by the ministry on Friday, includes 424bn yen for missile defence – a steep rise from the 180bn yen spent last year. A significant portion of that – 234.3bn yen – would go on two US-made Aegis Ashore missile defence systems that would be deployed on land specifically to track and intercept missiles from North Korea.

Japan’s military also wants funds for a ship-to-air SM-3 Block IIA interceptor with expanded range and accuracy, developed jointly by the US and Japan, as well as upgrades to fighter jets and destroyers to make them compatible with advanced interceptors. This week, defence officials said Japan must retain its hardline stance against the regime in Pyongyang, despite a slight easing in tensions following the summit in June between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un. In its annual defence review, Japan said North Korea continued to pose a “serious and imminent threat”, having conducted three nuclear tests and launched 40 ballistic missiles since the start of 2016.(theguardian)…[+]