Japan to raise military spending in response to security challenges

Japan's military looks to raise spending over the next five years in response to security challenges and to narrow Japan's trade surplus with the United States by buying US equipment, the Nikkei business daily reported. 

The Ministry of Defense looks to spend at least 27 trillion yen ($240 billion) between April 2019 and March 2024, with the spending rising an average 1.1 percent per year, exceeding the 0.8 percent average during the five years ending next March, the report said without identifying sources.

Currently, payments on equipment and personnel expenses account for 80 percent of defense spending, Nikkei said. Under the plan, funds for new equipment purchases will be separated from these expenses, making it easier to buy equipment from the United States, it added. 

Japan aims to have cabinet approval for the spending in mid-December, it said. The Ministry of Defense could not be reached immediately for comment. 

Purchases of American-made equipment could help Tokyo ease trade friction with Washington as US President Donald Trump pushes Japan to buy more American goods, including military gear, while threatening to impose tariffs on Japanese auto imports to cut a trade deficit with Tokyo. 

Japan's Ministry of Defense in August sought record spending of 5.3 trillion yen next year to help pay for major upgrades to defenses designed to shoot down any North Korean ballistic missile, which that Tokyo sees as a continued threat despite Pyongyang's promise to abandon nuclear weapons. 

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been reinforcing Japan's military to respond to any North Korea missile strike and counter China's growing air and sea power in the waters around Japan. 

Japan remains wary of North Korean promises to abandon its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs. The Ministry of Defense said in a white paper published in August Pyongyang remained Japan's ‘most serious and pressing threat’.