Japan to boost military spend amid China territorial row

Cabinet approves plans to spend €174 billion on expanding defences over next five years

Japan will buy drones, amphibious vehicles and vertical take-off aircraft to boost defences around its remote islands amid a growing territorial dispute with China.

The government will also consider obtaining the means to counter ballistic missiles at the point of launch, according to new security plans which set total five-year defence spending of 24.67 trillion yen (€173.4 billion), up about 1 trillion yen (€7.05 billion) on the previous five-year plan.

Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe’s cabinet endorsed two defence plans today alongside its first National Security Strategy amid a deepening dispute with China and unease over North Korea’s nuclear threat.

The plans are the latest step in Mr Abe’s efforts to promote a more active security stance at a time of rising tension with China over a chain of uninhabited islands claimed by both countries.


“This shows our foreign and security policy with great clarity and transparency to the people of Japan and to the world,” Mr Abe told reporters after the cabinet decision. “Based on cooperation with other countries, we want to make greater contributions than in the past to the peace and security of international society.”

Japan will set up a marines-style force to deal with any island incursions, equipping it with 17 tiltrotor aircraft and 52 amphibious vehicles, as well as three surveillance drones, according to documents given to reporters in advance.

Tiltrotor aircraft, such as the Osprey, can take off and land like a helicopter and travel long distances at high speed like a fixed-wing plane. Their deployment to US bases in Japan last year sparked protests because of a series of crashes.

Japan will also boost its ballistic missile defences by buying two more ships equipped with Aegis radar tracking technology adding to its existing six.

Even with the increased budget, the €173 billion Japan will spend on defence over the five-year period will be dwarfed by China, which had some €87 billion in military spending this year.

"All of this is fairly limited giving the extent of the Chinese problem,'' said Robert Dujarric, director of the Institute of Contemporary Asian Studies at Temple in Tokyo. "I'm sure what Beijing will do is to try to portray Japan as aggressive, militaristic, the usual stuff, but that's really uncorrelated with the reality."