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Japan sees record-high defense budget, with new Aegis ships, long-range missiles

(Xinhua)    13:07, December 22, 2020

TOKYO, Dec. 22 (Xinhua) -- Japan's cabinet on Monday approved a record 106.61-trillion-yen (1.03-trillion-U.S. dollar) draft budget for fiscal 2021, with the defense budget totaling 5.34 trillion yen (51.56 billion U.S. dollars) and rising for a ninth straight year.

The defense budget includes allocations for building two more vessels equipped with Aegis missile interceptor systems and a standoff missile development program, which Japanese media describes as running contrary to the country's pacifist Constitution and defense-only posture.

The Japanese government decided in 2017 to deploy two Aegis Ashore land-based missile defense systems to guard the whole country "24 hours a day and 365 days a year without gaps," but the plan was strongly opposed by local residents in the candidate sites of Akita and Yamaguchi Prefectures.

In June, then Defense Minister Taro Kono announced that the government decided to scrap the unpopular plan. Earlier this month, Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi said Japan will build two naval vessels equipped with Aegis missile interceptor systems as an alternative.

The replacement plan has drew criticism by local media as the so-called "24 hours a day and 365 days a year without gaps" protection is difficult to be realized and the high cost is also a concern.

The defense budget included 1.7 billion yen (16.4 million U.S. dollars) for research related to the new Aegis ships. According to government estimates, introducing the two ships will require between 480 billion yen (4.64 billion U.S. dollars) and 500 billion yen (4.83 billion U.S. dollars).

Meanwhile, the estimated costs don't include the budgets for operating and maintaining the ships. The two ships could become "the most expensive maritime equipment in the history of Japan's Self-Defense Forces."

The defense budget, which has hit a record high for the seventh consecutive year, has also allocated 33.5 billion yen (323.81 million U.S. dollars) for the development of controversial standoff missiles, capable of striking targets from outside their firing range.

Some opposition party members and experts have criticized the move, saying that though the Defense Ministry claimed the missile is not designed to "attack enemy bases," the extended range could be capable of that, which runs contrary to Japan's pacifist Constitution and defense-only stance.

Japan's Asahi Shimbun said in an editorial that the decision to develop a new standoff anti-ship missile could be seen as a step toward acquiring capabilities to "strike enemy bases" in the future.

"Any attempt to enhance the SDF's weapons capabilities without clarifying its purpose could ... destabilize the region and trigger a new arms race," said the editorial.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Wen Ying, Bianji)

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