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Japan’s Cabinet OKs record $46B defense budget in wake of N. Korea threats

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (Valery Sharifulin/TASS Host Photo Agency/Abaca Press/TNS)

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Cabinet on Friday approved a record $45.8 billion defense budget for next fiscal year to help cope with growing ballistic-missile threats from North Korea.

The budget — expected to pass both houses of the Diet — is a 1.3 percent increase over fiscal year 2017 and the seventh consecutive hike since Abe took office in 2012, Defense Ministry officials said.

“Japan will build up its defense capabilities while focusing on the further enhancement of joint functions in order to seamlessly and dynamically fulfill its defense responsibilities,” the budget proposal says.

It goes on to explain how the government wants to respond to intrusions on remote islands, ballistic-missile attacks and threats from outer space and cyberspace.

North Korea has escalated its missile program over the past year, test-firing more than 20 missiles over and around Japan. Last month, it launched a powerful intercontinental ballistic missile toward the northern island of Hokkaido that experts believe is capable of reaching the U.S. mainland.

The budget allocates $1.2 billion for costs related to missile defense, including $6.2 million for the land-based Aegis Ashore system and $41.5 million for upgrades to the Japan Aerospace Defense Ground Environment, or JADGE.

Japan recently announced plans to purchase Aegis Ashore to strengthen its ability to intercept incoming missiles alongside its Aegis-equipped ships and land-based Patriot batteries. JADGE will be used to respond to missiles with lofted trajectories or to any attack that is difficult to foresee.

The budget also includes $19.4 million for standoff missiles requested after the original proposal was made in August. This includes the implementation of Joint Strike Missiles to be installed on advanced F-35A Lightning II stealth fighters. Japan is scheduled to field a new F-35A squadron in Misawa by March 2018.

“It will become possible to execute various operations more effectively and safely by dealing with sea-surface and landing units invading into Japan from outside the enemy’s search and attack ranges without approaching the enemy,” Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera told reporters earlier this month.

To respond to China’s expanding naval activities, $813.4 million has been allocated to build two escort ships along with $614.9 million for a submarine with improved monitoring capabilities.

Japan also budgeted $1.74 billion for hosting U.S. forces in Japan and $2 billion to pay for U.S. troop realignment.

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