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Japan defence ministry asks for record budget

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V-22 Osprey. A Boeing photo

TOKYO (AFP): Japan's defence ministry has made its biggest ever budget request, as Tokyo bolsters its military amid worries over China's expanding naval reach.

The ministry wants USD 48.7 billion for the year, with the focus on boosting protection of a string of southern islands that stretches from Kyushu to waters near Taiwan.

The request, if approved, would mark the third straight annual defence budget increase and a 3.5 per cent rise from the budget for the current fiscal year to March 2015.

The trend reflects Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's wish to build a more active military, with an eye on a possible escalation of tensions with China.

Japan is increasingly wary of China, which is seen by several countries in the region as becoming increasingly aggressive in various sovereignty claims, including a suppurative row over island ownership with Tokyo.

Among items on the defence ministry's shopping list are 20 "P1" maritime patrol aircraft, with a price tag of USD 3.64 billion.

It also wants five MV-22 "Osprey" crossover aircraft that have the manoeuverability of helicopters and the range of airplanes along with three "Global Hawk" drones and six high-tech F-35 stealth fighters.

The ministry also wants to set aside money to launch a new amphibious brigade, to be assigned to protect the Nansei Shoto islands that lie between the East China Sea and Pacific Ocean.

Japan and China have routinely butted heads over the ownership of the Tokyo-controlled Senkaku Islands, which Beijing claims as the Diaoyus, with official Chinese ships and aircraft regularly testing Japanese forces.

Separately, Chinese naval ships and military jets are seen increasing their activities around Japan, while an unpredictable North Korea continues its missile and nuclear programmes.

Conservative ideologue Abe has tirelessly travelled abroad to reinforce ties with foreign leaders, particularly those in Southeast Asia, in a bid to counter China's efforts to expand its sphere of influence.

Abe has also worked to strengthen Japan's military alliance with the United States.

His defence efforts, however, have provoked unease in China and South Korea, which were victims of Japan's aggressive military campaigns through the end of World War II.

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Japan  Defence  Budget  Aircraft  Navy  
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