Japan to boost military amid rising tensions with China

Tuesday 17 December 2013 19.38
The planned increase in military spending reverses a decade of decline
The planned increase in military spending reverses a decade of decline

Japan is to boost its military spending in the coming years, buying early-warning planes, beach-assault vehicles and troop-carrying aircraft.

It is also seeking closer ties with Asian partners to counter a more militarily assertive China.

The planned 2.6% increase over five years reverses a decade of decline.

It marks the clearest sign since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took office a year ago that he wants a bigger military role for Japan as tension flares with China over islands they both claim.

Mr Abe's top priority has been reviving a long-sluggish economy, but he has also pledged to strengthen Japan's military and boost its security profile.

He wants to meet, what he says is, a threat from China's rapid military build up and recent actions to back its claims to Japanese-held islands in the East China Sea.

"China is attempting to change the status quo by force in the skies and seas of the East China Sea and South China Sea and other areas, based on its own assertions, which are incompatible with the established international order," Japan said in its first national security strategy, one of three plans approved today.

"China's stance toward other countries and military moves, coupled with a lack of transparency regarding its military and national security policies, represent a concern to Japan and the wider international community and require close watch."

The policies call for stronger air and maritime surveillance capabilities and improved ability to defend far-flung islands through such steps as setting up a marine unit, buying unarmed surveillance drones and putting a unit of E-2C early-warning aircraft on Okinawa island in the south.

Japan will budget 23.97 trillion yen (€169bn) over the coming five years for defence, up from 23.37 trillion yen from the previous five years.

Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera denied that the plan was aimed at any country and said better China ties were vital.

But China's Xinhua news agency said the policies were clearly aimed at China and it warned Japan against "big-power geopolitics".

Keywords: china, japan