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Japan defense budget to post biggest rise in 18 yrs

TOKYO -- Japan's defense budget will grow 2.2 percent in the next fiscal year from April, Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said on Friday, posting the biggest rise in nearly two decades.

The budget increase comes as tension between Japan and China simmers over tiny islands they both claim.

Japan's defence spending next year comes in at 4.78 trillion yen (US$45.86 billion), up 2.2 percent on the year, Onodera told reporters after meeting Finance Minister Taro Aso. That would be the biggest percentage rise in 18 years and mark the second consecutive year of growth.

The Defence Ministry has said, however, much of the budget growth next year will be linked to higher cost of equipment imports due to a weaker yen, and the end in March of temporary pay cuts for government workers aimed to help finance reconstruction after a 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

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