Japan’s cabinet approved Thursday a record defense budget of around $43.6 billion for the 2017 fiscal year, marking the fifth annual increase since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took office.
Kyodo news agency cited finance ministry officials as saying that the 1.4-percent increase to a 5.13 trillion yen budget was in response to security threats including China’s “maritime assertiveness” and North Korea’s ballistic missile development.
Under Abe’s government, Japan’s legislature passed security bills under which the country has expanded the scope of operations by its troops overseas after a reinterpretation of its pacifist post-World War II constitution.
The constitution’s reinterpretation has allowed for “collective defense” — defined as being able to come to the assistance of formal allies, such as the United States and “close partners”.
Tokyo has disputes with Beijing over a chain of islands in the East China Sea and has expressed concern over its neighbor’s reclamation activities in the resource-rich South China Sea, where China has conflicting claims with several Southeast Asian nations.
Abe’s cabinet plans to submit the 97.45 trillion yen ($831 billion) draft budget approved Thursday — which covers the fiscal year starting in April — to the Diet early next year.
The record-high budget also includes 73.93 trillion yen set aside for policy spending in the general account — the largest percentage of which is to cover spending on social security as Japan’s population continues to age.