Japan’s Cabinet approves spending on US missiles, surveillance drone
By ERIK SLAVIN AND HANA KUSUMOTO | STARS AND STRIPES Published: December 22, 2016
TOKYO — The Japanese Cabinet has approved new spending on missile-defense systems jointly developed with the United States as part of its 2017 defense budget proposal.
The $45 billion spending bill, OK’d Thursday, is a 1.4 percent hike over the previous budget, which has risen for five consecutive years since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his Liberal Democratic Party swept into office with a commanding majority.
The budget is expected to pass both houses of the LDP-controlled Diet next year.
The proposal includes about $125 million for purchasing SM-3 Block IIA missile interceptors, which the U.S. employs both on land and on ships capable of ballistic-missile defense.
The Cabinet also approved $900 million on Thursday for enhancing its Patriot missile inventory as part of a revised 2016 budget. The purchase was originally planned for 2017 but moved up in response to North Korea’s continuing ballistic-missile development, according to budget documents and a Defense Ministry spokesman.
The defense budget also rose in part to deal with the increasing presence of Chinese vessels in the East and South China seas, according to a budget document.
Another $143 million for 2017 would go toward purchasing the U.S.-made RQ-4B Global Hawk drone, which will be deployed to Misawa by 2020. Both U.S. and Japanese forces have a significant presence at Misawa in northern Honshu.
Japan will spend $1.67 billion on hosting U.S. forces in Japan, roughly the same it spent last year, as calculated at current exchange rates. The figure is part of a five-year bilateral agreement with Washington that began this year. The cabinet also budgeted $2.05 billion for U.S. troop realignment. That number includes funding to relocate Marine Corps Air Station Futenma elsewhere on Okinawa, and for plans to move about 5,000 Marines from Okinawa sometime in the 2020s.
Japan’s submarine spending is also headed upward, in a push to expand its fleet of 16 active boats up to 22 boats.