Japan seeks biggest-ever defense budget amid China concerns

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

TOKYO (AP) — Japan's Defense Ministry wants to buy an advanced Aegis radar-equipped destroyer and F-35 fighters under its largest-ever budget to bolster the defense of southern islands amid a territorial dispute with China.

The ministry endorsed a 5.1 trillion yen ($42 billion) budget request Monday for the year beginning next April, up 2.2 percent from this year. It would be the fourth annual increase under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who ended 10 years of defense budget cuts.

The rise comes largely from purchases of new equipment, including 17 surveillance helicopters, six F-35 fighters and three advanced drones. The construction of a Soryu-class submarine is also planned to bolster island defense and surveillance.

The request is based on new defense guidelines allowing a larger military role amid tensions over China's growing military might.