TOKYO (AP) – Japan’s cabinet on Friday approved a record-breaking defense budget of 5.4 trillion yen ($ 47 billion) for fiscal 2022, which includes funding for research and development for a new aircraft hunting and other “game-changing” weapons as Japan ramps up its defense capabilities in response to China’s growing military might and tensions with Taiwan.
The 1.1% budget increase for the year starting in April is the 10th consecutive increase in defense spending and is in line with Japan’s commitment to the United States to strengthen its own defense capabilities to deal with the increasingly difficult security concerns in the region.
The budget, yet to be approved by parliament, includes a record 291 billion yen ($ 2.55 billion) for defense research and development, up 38 percent from the current year.
Of this amount, 100 billion yen ($ 870 million) is intended for the development of the FX fighter jet to replace the aging Japanese fleet of F-2 planes by 2035. It would be the first fighter plane developed in Japan for 40 years.
Japan and Britain recently announced joint development of a future demonstration fighter jet engine and have agreed to further explore combat air technologies and subsystems. The project includes Mitsubishi and IHI in Japan and Rolls-Royce and BAE Systems in the UK
As China’s military build-up expands into cyberspace and outer space, Japan’s Defense Ministry is also pushing for research into autonomous vehicles operated by artificial intelligence for air and underwater use. -marine, supersonic flight and other “changing” technologies.
The budget allocates 128 billion yen ($ 1.1 billion) for the purchase of a dozen F-35 stealth fighters from Lockheed Martin Corp., four of them with short take-off and vertical landing capabilities for a use on two helicopter carriers converted to aircraft carriers, key to Japan’s joint operations with the United States in the defense of the Indo-Pacific region.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, formerly known as the Dove, quickly adopted more hawkish policies and said Japan should consider acquiring a preemptive strike capability in response to China’s growing military power and North Korea’s growing missile and nuclear capabilities.
The Japanese and US armies have drawn up a draft joint contingency plan for a possible emergency in Taiwan, such as fighting between Chinese and Taiwanese forces, Kyodo News Agency reported Thursday, citing unidentified Japanese government sources, amid growing tensions between Taiwan and China.
China claims the autonomy of Taiwan as its own territory, to be annexed by force if necessary. It has increased its military threats by holding exercises near the island and frequently sending warplanes into its air defense identification zone.
As part of the announced plan, the US Marine Corps will set up temporary bases on islands in Japan’s Nansei Range between Kyushu and Taiwan for the deployment of troops in the early stages of an emergency in Taiwan, while the military Japan will provide logistical support as well as ammunition and fuel supplies, Kyodo said.
Japan and the United States are expected to agree to start developing a formal preparedness plan at a meeting of their foreign and defense ministers scheduled for January, Kyodo said.
The plan, which also includes islands near Okinawa, the site of WWII’s bloodiest battle, is sure to face protests from local residents.
Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi declined to comment on the report on Friday, saying only that Japan and the United States have emergency action plans and plan to update them, but details could not not be disclosed. Kishi added that a decision by the Japanese-American committee tasked with negotiating the status of forces agreement between nations would allow the US military to open a new base on Japanese soil.
Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who remains influential in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, recently warned Chinese President Xi Jinping against triggering an emergency in Taiwan, saying China should be aware of the serious consequences.
Japan’s defense spending now ranks among the top 10 in the world, according to international defense research organizations.