Japan Cabinet OKs budget, hiking defence spending

Abe

Japan's Cabinet today endorsed a record-high 92.6 trillion yen (USD 1.02 trillion) general budget for the coming fiscal year that would increase defence spending for the first time in 11 years and boost public works projects.

The 4.75 trillion yen (USD 52.5 billion) in proposed defence spending, up 0.8 per cent from last year, is partly aimed at beefing up Japan's coastal and marine surveillance around islands also claimed by China and Taiwan.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has pledged to do whatever it takes to get the economy out of recession and restore sustainable growth, through both strong stimulus spending and monetary easing.

Including a supplementary budget to help cover costs through March 31, the government has set its spending plans through March 2014, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters.

"I think it's a lean budget that Prime Minister Abe was aiming at," Suga said. "We compiled the budget plan with a sense of urgency that there was not a single day to waste." The budget still requires the approval of parliament, which is expected by the end of February.

Abe, a staunch nationalist who came to office following a landslide victory by his Liberal Democratic Party last month, also favors a firm stance toward China in a dispute over uninhabited islands in the East China Sea. The dispute flared last year under the previous administration, led by the Democratic Party of Japan.

The budget endorses a Defence Ministry plan to base more troops, ships and aircraft around the disputed islands.

"Our nation faces increasingly active operations by China in and around our seas and skies, including intrusions of our territorial waters and violations of airspace. We must give this sufficient consideration," the ministry said in an outline of its budget proposals.

Apart from that challenge, Japan has a huge and rising public debt and surging social welfare costs thanks to its fast-ageing population.

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