Japan likely to increase defense spending due to islands row

Japan likely to increase defense spending due to islands row

By Yu Runze, Sina English

Japanese government has decided it will increase defense spending for the first time in 11 years in light of the territorial tensions with China, sources say.

The government, led by the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), wants to raise spending in fiscal 2013 to at least ¥4.77 trillion (US$53.4 billion) - the same as in the initial fiscal 2009 budget - the last one it formulated before becoming an opposition party, the sources said Saturday.

Defense expenditures in the initial fiscal 2012 budget drafted by the Democratic Party of Japan-led government before it was ousted last month stood at ¥4.71 trillion.

The government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who also heads the LDP, is thinking of increasing the number of Self-Defense Forces troops and upgrading their equipment at a time when China is stepping up airborne and maritime surveillance and other activities around the Diaoyu Islands, the sources said.

The most that Japan has ever budgeted for defense spending was ¥4.96 trillion in the initial budget drafted for fiscal 2002.

In addition to the plan to increase spending, Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera has said Abe's government will review the long-term basic defense program that was adopted - along with a midterm defense buildup program - in 2010 by the previous administration led by the DPJ.

Chinese FM meets Japanese envoy

Japan's new ambassador to China, Masato Kitera, held talks with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi in Beijing over the weekend.

While both sides declined to reveal the details of their talks on Saturday, Kitera is believed to have stressed the need for the two countries to avoid emergency situations amid the territorial row over the Diaoyu Islands.