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Politics

Japan's defense ministry eyes record fiscal 2017 budget

TOKYO -- The Japanese defense ministry plans to request a record 5.1 trillion yen ($51 billion) or so in the fiscal 2017 budget amid growing concerns over China and North Korea.

This will mark the fifth straight year that the Ministry of Defense seeks an increase in funding. Japan's defense budget grew for the first time in 11 years in fiscal 2013, after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe began his second run. The ministry sees another increase as necessary for next fiscal year amid growing tensions in the Asia-Pacific region.

A portion of the requested budget will go toward joint development of the Standard Missile-3 Block IIA with the U.S. The next-generation missiles will be deployed on Aegis-equipped destroyers of Japan's Maritime Self-Defense Force.

The Block IIA will be able to shoot down incoming missiles at an altitude of 1,000km or more, compared with roughly 300km for the existing SM-3s. Japan and the U.S. are working to improve the new model's capability in response to a North Korean Musudan missile whose altitude exceeded 1,000km in a June launch.

Testing will be carried out off the coast of Hawaii this fall, with the aim of beginning production in fiscal 2017.

The Self-Defense Forces have a two-tier anti-missile system. Any missiles that make it through the Aegis-equipped destroyers and their S-M3s are met with the ground-based Patriot Advanced Capability-3 interceptors. The budget request will also include a PAC-3 upgrade to increase range.

The ministry will also request funding to improve the capability of surface-to-ship missiles deployed to the Sakishima Islands in Okinawa, around waters where Chinese activity has recently increased, and to upgrade F-15 fighter jets that would be scrambled from an SDF base in Okinawa if a Chinese military plane approaches Japanese airspace.

(Nikkei)

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