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Japan Seeks Extra Defense Budget       11/26 06:07

   Japan's Cabinet on Friday approved a 770 billion yen ($6.8 billion) request 
for an extra defense budget through March to expedite the purchase of missiles, 
anti-submarine rockets and other weapons amid rising concern over the 
escalation of military activities by China, Russia and North Korea.

   TOKYO (AP) -- Japan's Cabinet on Friday approved a 770 billion yen ($6.8 
billion) request for an extra defense budget through March to expedite the 
purchase of missiles, anti-submarine rockets and other weapons amid rising 
concern over the escalation of military activities by China, Russia and North 
Korea.

   The request, still pending parliamentary approval, brings Japan's military 
spending for the current year to a new high of more than 6.1 trillion yen 
($53.2 billion), up 15% from 5.31 trillion yen in 2020.

   The Defense Ministry says its "defense power reinforcement and acceleration 
package" is designed to speed up deployment of some of the key equipment from 
the 2022 budget request. The goal is to beef up Japan's defenses against North 
Korea's missile threat and China's increasingly assertive maritime activity 
around remote Japanese southwestern islands, officials said.

   Japan has also raised concerns over recent joint military activities by 
China and Russia near its waters and airspace.

   A fleet of two Chinese H-6 fighters and two Russian Tu-95s flew from the Sea 
of Japan to the East China Sea and to the Pacific Ocean, triggering Japanese 
Self-Defense Force jets to scramble, Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi said Tuesday.

   The budget request includes nearly 100 billion yen ($870 million) for the 
advanced version of PAC-3 mobile surface-to-air missile interceptors and 
related equipment, as well as cruise missiles.

   Separately, more than 800 billion yen ($7 billion) will go to speed up the 
purchase of reconnaissance planes and equipment, including three P-1s, 
equipment for P-3Cs and vertical launch systems to be placed on two destroyers, 
to step up surveillance around Japan's territorial waters and airspace.

   Japan has been stepping up defenses in its southwestern regions and islands, 
including Ishigaki Island, where a new military base with a land-to-sea missile 
defense system will be operational. Ishigaki is north of the uninhabited 
Japanese-controlled Senkaku Islands, which are also claimed by China, which 
calls them Diaoyu.

   Tokyo regularly protests the Chinese coast guard's presence near Senkaku 
Islands.

   The ministry also plans to build housing for ground troops on Ishigaki 
Island.

   The combined budget for 2021 will be just over 1% of Japan's GDP, keeping 
its customary cap. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has said he is open to doubling 
Japan's military spending to cope with the worsening security environment.

   The defense budget also aims to ease burden on Japanese defense equipment 
and parts suppliers that are struggling to maintain the country's dwindling 
industry, officials said.

   The defense budget is part of a nearly 36 trillion yen ($316 billion) draft 
extra budget approved by the Cabinet Friday to fund an economic stimulus 
package focusing on COVID-19 preparedness and support for the pandemic-hit 
households and businesses. Some opposition lawmakers criticized Kishida's 
government for using the stimulus package to cover military spending.

   Critics also say Japan, as the world's fastest-aging country with a 
shrinking population, should allocate more money toward health care and other 
services.

   Japan's military spending and capabilities have grown continuously since 
former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took office in December 2012, and has since 
risen by 17%. Abe's government allowed Japan's military to be more involved in 
international affairs by adopting a new interpretation in 2015 of the 
war-renouncing Article 9 of the constitution.

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