Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's government on Thursday approved an increase in defense spending to record levels to counter growing Chinese military power in the East China Sea and an escalating North Korean ballistic missile threat.
Abe's cabinet on Thursday signed off on a 1.4 percent increase in spending to 5.13 trillion yen ($43.66 billion) for the year starting April 1.
If approved by lawmakers, which is highly likely given the ruling Liberal Democratic Party's control of parliament, it will be the fifth straight annual increase in outlays.
Under Abe, Japan's Self Defense Forces are pivoting away from guarding the nation's north to reinforce an island chain stretching 1,400 kilometers (870 miles) along the southern edge of the East China Sea.
That means fewer tank divisions in favor of building a mobile force equipped with hardware such as tilt-rotor Osprey carriers, ships, amphibious vehicles and mobile missile batteries.
Japan is also spending more to upgrade its ballistic missile defense, in response to advances in North Korea's ballistic missile program.
Japan’s relations with China were strained on December 10, with Japan’s Ministry of Defense stating that around noon, several Chinese military aircraft coming from the East China Sea flew over waters between Okinawa Island and Miyako Island to the Pacific Ocean. China claimed that two F-15 fighter jets scrambled by Japan interfered with Chinese military aircraft from close range and launched jamming shells, which endangered the safety of Chinese aircraft and crew. Japan denied any interference.