Tokyo (AFP) – Japan announced Tuesday it will buy stealth fighters, drones and submarines as part of a splurge on military hardware that will beef up defense of far-flung islands amid a territorial row with China.
The cabinet of hawkish Prime Minister Shinzo Abe agreed to spend $240 billion between 2014 and 2019 in a strategic shift towards the south and west of the country — a five percent boost to the military budget over five years.
The shopping list is part of efforts by Abe to normalize the military in Japan, which has been officially pacifist since defeat in World War II. Its well-equipped and highly professional services are limited to a narrowly defined self-defensive role.
It comes with the establishment of a U.S.-style National Security Council that is expected to concentrate greater power in the hands of a smaller number of senior politicians and bureaucrats.
Fears are growing in Japan over the rising power of China, with the two countries embroiled in a dispute over the sovereignty of a group of islands in the East China Sea, and the perennial threat posed by an unpredictable North Korea.
New guidelines approved by the cabinet on Tuesday said Tokyo will introduce a “dynamic joint defense force”, intended to help air, land and sea forces work together more effectively.
Abe said the shift would allow Japan’s military to better shoulder its responsibilities on the global stage.
“We hope to make further contributions to the peace and stability of the international community through proactive pacifism,” he said. “This shows with transparency our country’s diplomatic and defense policies.”
Spending will be raised to 24.7 trillion yen over five years from April 2014, up from the present 23.5 trillion yen over the five years to March 2014, but the figure could be trimmed by up to 700 billion yen if the defense ministry can find savings and efficiencies.
New hardware will include three drones, 52 amphibious vehicles, 17 Osprey hybrid choppers and five submarines — all designed to boost maritime surveillance and bolster defense of islands.
The spending will also encompass two destroyers equipped with the Aegis anti-missile system and 28 new F-35 fighter jets, a stealth plane far superior to the F-15s that Japan currently has in service.