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Japan invests in new military kit as China row simmers

Tokyo - Japan announced Tuesday it will buy stealth fighters, drones and submarines as part of a splurge on military hardware that will beef up defence of far-flung islands amid a simmering territorial row with China.

The cabinet of hawkish Prime Minister Shinzo Abe agreed to spend 24.7 trillion yen (US$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 normalise 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 US-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 menace posed by an unpredictable North Korea.

New guidelines approved by the cabinet on Tuesday said Tokyo will introduce a "dynamic joint defence 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, through what he has promoted as "proactive pacifism".

"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 defence 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 defence 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 defence 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.

Analysts noted that much of this kit will replace obsolete equipment, but the shift in military priorities is evident.

"The guidelines underscore a clear shift of Japan's major defence focus to the protection of its islands in the East China Sea," said Hideshi Takesada, an expert on regional security at Takushoku University in Tokyo.

December 17, 2013    cloggedwithguts@
Wow...the Japs are returning to the bad old days of Militarism. Kudos to that!
December 17, 2013    alnero2@
What is the total worth of the resources that can be pumped from around these disputed islands? Now work out the cost of the build up to, during and aftermath of conflict between China and a US backed Japan.
It's so sad to see Sino - Japanese relations to sink to this increasingly entrenched stand off. I do not know the full history of these islands, but surely a compromise, joint ownership of the development and profit from these resources is the cheapest option on all levels.
There are a lot of unresolved issues between China and Japan left over from past conflict and I think it is these that will rue the outcome.
December 18, 2013    ludahai_twn@
China only has itself to blame for the change in attitude among the common people of Japan.
December 22, 2013    taiwanindependencenow@
The Glorious Nation of Japan must develop nuclear weapons in order to counter the chinks and to defend herself from both the chinks and gooks. All the free-loving people of the world must support Japan's quest. The only way to tranquilize the chinks is to nuke Beijing. As we all know, the only good chink is a [...] chink.
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Picture taken on August 20 shows Japanese Ground Self-Defense Forces vehicle being unloaded from a CH47J transport helicopter during an annual live fire exercise at the Higashi-Fuji firing range in Gotemba, at the foot of Mt. Fuji in Shizuoka prefecture.

(AFP)

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