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Japan defense boost criticized

By Mo Jingxi | China Daily | Updated: 2016-12-23 07:58

Japan's latest defense budget increase supports nationalist sentiment and risks destabilizing the region, academic experts said. By constantly bolstering its military, Japan could derail the long-established strategic balance and trigger an arms race, they added.

Japan's Cabinet approved on Thursday its biggest defense budget proposal - 5.13 trillion yen ($43.6 billion) - for the fiscal year starting in April, an increase of 1.4 percent from the previous budget.

If approved by Japan's parliament next year, it would be the fifth consecutive year that Japan has raised its defense budget since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took office in 2012.

According to the Associated Press, Japan's Coast Guard budget "will reach a record 210 billion yen to add eight new ships and more than 200 law enforcement officials. The 14-ship fleet will add five large surveillance ships and three research vessels."

The Coast Guard budget also will pay for video transmission devices on vessels that patrol the Diaoyu Islands, while strengthening maritime surveillance and other measures, Abe was quoted as saying.

Da Zhigang, a Japanese studies researcher at Heilongjiang Provincial Academy of Social Sciences, said the increased spending on the Coast Guard indicates that Japan has studied the possibility of a limited conflict, which could involve maritime clashes between China and Japan over the Diaoyu Islands.

Also, the new defense budget shows that Tokyo is preparing for the possibility of increasing conflict and risk in Northeast Asia and has decided to respond by strengthening its defense, Da said.

"The budget not only targets China and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, but the whole region, as Japan tries to increase its deterrent power in the region via improving military hardware," he said.

Hu Dekun, dean of the China Institute of Boundary and Ocean Studies at Wuhan University, said the Abe administration might win domestic support by raising the defense budget, as nationalist sentiment can be mobilized by playing up threats from neighboring countries.

"However, this only helps to realize the military expansion the Abe government has been seeking, and could affect peace in the region for years," he said.

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