Japan eyes defence budget increase, Marines-like unit

August 30, 2013 10:32 am
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Soldiers from Japan's Ground Self Defence Force patrol near a Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) missile launcher deployed at the Defence Ministry in Tokyo on April 11, 2013/AFP
Soldiers from Japan’s Ground Self Defence Force patrol near a Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) missile launcher deployed at the Defence Ministry in Tokyo on April 11, 2013/AFP

, TOKYO, August 30- Japan’s defence ministry is looking for its biggest budget hike in two decades, partly to create a Marines like force, the ministry revealed Friday, as neighbours fret about Tokyo’s rising assertiveness.

Military bosses want more than 4.8 trillion yen ($49 billion) three percent up on last year with much of their focus on safeguarding remote islands, as a sovereignty row with China refuses to fade.

The request mirrors Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s policy of a more assertive diplomacy and a more active military.

Tokyo and Beijing have repeatedly butted heads over the ownership of Tokyo-controlled islands called the Senkakus, which Beijing claims as the Diaoyus, with official Chinese ships and aircraft regularly testing Japanese forces.

Abe has long voiced worries over defence at a time China is increasing its naval activities in waters around Japan and as unpredictable North Korea continues its missile and nuclear programmes.

He has also called for a stronger military alliance with the United States, which is in the process of a re-balancing of its forces under President Barack Obama’s so-called “pivot” to Asia.

The budget request for fiscal 2014, which will begin April, represents a three percent spending increase, making a second straight annual increase after a 0.8 percent rise in the current fiscal year to March 2014.

If approved, the increase would mark the largest rise since fiscal 1992.

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