Japan approves record $56 billion defense budget

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Japan approved Friday a record defense budget worth $56 billion for the next fiscal year, as tensions rise with China and North Korea.

The 7.95 trillion yen ($56 billion) draft budget for the 2024-25 fiscal year was approved by the cabinet, in line with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s pledge to raise defense spending over the next few years.

Japan has a pacifist post-war constitution, which limits its military capacity to ostensibly defensive measures.

But it updated key security and defense policies last year, explicitly outlining the challenge posed by China and setting a goal of doubling defense spending to the NATO standard of two percent of GDP by 2027.

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The defense budget announced Friday includes 370 billion yen to build two new warships rigged with the US-developed Aegis missile defense system.

Japan also plans to spend 734 billion yen to shore up the nation’s “stand-off” defense capacity such as purchases of missiles.

And about 75 billion yen will be used for joint development of interceptors to shoot down hypersonic missiles.

The budget also includes costs Japan agreed to pay to the United States over the relocation of the US forces in Japan.

The defense budget is part of the 112.07 trillion yen ($787 billion) Japan plans to spend for the next fiscal year, down from a record 114.4 trillion yen in the previous year.

Japan wants to dramatically expand the country’s defense capacity as it has been alarmed by China’s expanding military ambitions.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has also stoked fears that China may move to take over Taiwan, a self-governed democracy claimed by Beijing.

North Korea’s missile launches and the possibility of future nuclear tests have also pushed Japan to boost its defense spending.

Earlier this year, Kishida said Japan would purchase 400 Tomahawk missiles from the United States.

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