TOKYO — Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's cabinet on Thursday approved Japan's biggest ever annual defence budget.
The cabinet approved 5.05 trillion yen (US$41.8 billion) in defence spending for the next fiscal year starting in April, with the focus on strengthening protection of a string of southern islands that stretch from Japan's mainland to waters near Taiwan.
The allocation is part of a record 96.7 trillion yen national budget that will now be sent to parliament for debate and approval early next year.
The defence budget is 1.5 per cent higher than the current fiscal year which was the previous record high, and marks the fourth straight annual increase in defence spending.
The trend reflects a hawkish Abe's attempt to build a military – more active and collaborative with its biggest ally, the United States – with an eye on a possible escalation of tensions with China.
In September, Abe pushed contentious security bills into law, a move that could see Japanese troops fight abroad for the first time in 70 years.
"We expect the latest procurement would contribute further to co-operation between Japan and the United States," a defence ministry official told reporters.
But the official said the latest military budget, which was requested in August, does not yet reflect the new legislation and the ministry will study if the new laws will require bigger budgets in future years. -- AFP