TOKYO -- Japan looks to consider its largest-ever defense budget, with a big chunk of the funds to go to containing the upgraded ballistic missile threat from North Korea.
The Defense Ministry will ask for 5.25 trillion yen ($47.9 billion) covering the year starting in April 2018, a 2.5% increase from the sum initially allocated for fiscal 2017. Japan's defense spending has grown every year since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe assumed office in 2012.
The Abe administration will use the request to compile the final budget proposal due by the end of the year.
Part of the money goes to the installation of a new U.S. missile interceptor system, the ground-based Aegis Ashore. But the exact spending for the program, to be hammered out with Washington, will not be determined until the end of 2017.
Japan's Defense Ministry also seeks 10.7 billion yen to update the capabilities of its warning system for missile strikes, a move in response to North Korea's increasingly diversified missile-staging tactics employed to evade early detection.
The overall budget request includes funds to acquire the Standard Missile-3 Block IIA interceptor, which boasts an extended range.
The ministry also looks to broaden the protective shield provided by the Patriot Advanced Capability-3 missile defense system.
China's maritime expansion also figures into the coming defense spending. Funds will be solicited to build two naval escort vessels and one submarine. Defense officials also are procuring six F-35A stealth fighters. The ministry's request will include money to develop a high-speed missile made to protect isolated islands, radars that can better detect stealth jets, and 4.4 billion yen to build a system to monitor space activity.