Tokyo's defense hike may boost tensions

Tokyo's defense hike may boost tensions

Japan's new hawkish cabinet is toughening its military posture to confront China regarding the row over the Diaoyu Islands, a move observers said is testing China's bottom line and may prompt further escalation of tension.

Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera is planning to visit military bases in southwestern Japan's Okinawa prefecture as part of Tokyo's show of toughness. Onodera, during the trip, may encourage members of Japan's Self-Defense Forces involved in missions regarding territorial rows, Japan's Jiji Press News Agency reported on Wednesday.

Ruan Zongze, vice-president of the China Institute of International Studies, said Tokyo's frequent resorting to military approaches is not favorable for the resolution of the islands row.

However, Ruan said there is little chance of the situation spiraling out of control.

Japan plans to spend 180.5 billion yen ($2.1 billion) on its military as part of a huge stimulus package over the next few months, AFP quoted a Japanese defense ministry source as saying on Wednesday.

"We will request 180.5 billion yen to be allocated to military spending from a stimulus package," a Japanese defense ministry spokesman said, adding that some of the cash will be used to purchase PAC-3 surface-to-air anti-ballistic missile systems and modernize four F-15 fighter jets.

Tokyo's recent frequent calls for an increased defense budget and redesigning maritime deployment are mainly targeted at China, and the moves will give rise to "nothing but unnecessary regional tension", said Gao Hong, deputy director of the Institute of Japanese Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

Japan has decided to increase defense spending to at least 4.77 trillion yen for the first time in 11 years in the 2013 fiscal year to deal with the continuing tensions with China.

"The defense plans will not have any impact on China's determination to safeguard its sovereignty," Gao added.

Japan's Ministry of Defense and the Japan Coast Guard are reportedly considering measures such as firing tracer bullets to warn off Chinese surveillance planes close to China's Diaoyu Islands.