Japan mulls record defense budget to counter North Korea

NNA – Japan plans to increase its defense budget to a record high level for the next fiscal year, allocating money to purchase more American weapon systems to counter North Korea.

The Japanese government is expected to set aside 5.19 trillion yen (approximately 46 billion US dollars) for defense in the country’s initial budget proposal for the fiscal year starting April 2018, Japan’s largest financial daily the Nikkei reported on Saturday.

The amount surpasses the 5.12 trillion yen budget for the current fiscal year and is approximately 70 billion yen more than last year.

The business newspaper said the measure would mark the sixth straight year of increases in Japan’s defense outlays, adding that most of the additional costs would go to protecting the country against the perceived threat from North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

The extra funding will cover the cost of the preliminary design and the subsequent purchase and deployment of the US military’s Aegis Ashore land-based missile interceptor system in Japan, the Nikkei said.

Additionally, the Japanese Defense Ministry announced last week that Tokyo intended to begin developing a cruise missile designed to be deployed on fighter-jets and to strike naval ships and ground targets.

Called the Japanese Tomahawk, the prototype is designed to defend remote Japanese islands.

The United States and its regional allies, including Japan, have been opposed to North Korea’s weapons programs.

Tokyo found reason for extreme worry when Pyongyang fired two long-range missiles over Japan in September and also conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear test.

Japan also fears that potential US military action against North Korea could draw reprisal attacks by Pyongyang against Japanese territory.

The standoff over North Korea escalated in July when Pyongyang test-fired two intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM). Experts say the entire US mainland is within the range of the missiles, which North Korea says could be equipped with nuclear warheads.

North Korea has been under a raft of crippling UN sanctions since 2006 over its nuclear tests as well as multiple rocket and missile launches. Pyongyang has firmly defended its military program as a deterrent against the hostile policies of the US and its regional allies, including Japan and South Korea.

Washington has thousands of troops in the region, partially in South Korea and Japan, and routinely threatens the North with military action to stop its weapons programs. —Press Tv

================== R.K.

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