Japan's Cabinet approved a record 5.34 trillion yen ($51.7 billion, €42.4 billion) defense budget for the fiscal year 2021.
It is the first defense budget under Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and seeks to bolster funding to develop longer-range cruise missiles and stealth fighters to counter potential threats from China and North Korea.
With the move, Suga's government has provided continuity to the priorities of his predecessor, Shinzo Abe, whose nearly eight-year tenure saw Japan expand its military's international role.
The bump in defense spending represents 1.1% from this year and with Suga's large majority in parliament, the new budget is expected to be approved.
What will the money be spent on?
Some $706 million in the new budget will go towards the developent of a new stealth fighter jet, the country's first in three decades. It is expected to cost around $40 billion in total and be ready in the 2030s.
The project will be led by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd with help from US defense contractor Lockheed Martin Corporation.
Japan will also spend $323 million to begin development of a long-range anti-ship missile to defend its southwestern Okinawan island chain.
The military will also receive $912 million to build two compact warships that can operate with fewer sailors than conventional destroyers. That should ease pressure on the country's navy, which has struggled to find recruits among Japan's largely ageing population.
Funds for COVID-19
Japan will also allocate a record 35.8 trillion yen, about one third of the budget, in Social security expenditures so cover for the growing health care and pension costs of the rapidly ageing population.
Five trillion yen will also be earmarked for possible countermeasures against the COVID-19 pandemic, just as Japan has been confronting a resurgence of the virus since mid-November.
Some 41% of the budget will be covered by debt, compared with nearly 32% in the current year, reflecting falling tax revenues due to the coronavirus pandemic’s effect on business activity.
jcg/rt (Reuters, AP)