China accuses Japan of ‘exaggerating’ threats amid record $48bn defense budget request
“Japan’s national defense budget has been rising for years indeed, and has reached a record high. We are concerned about that,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said during a Thursday press briefing, when asked whether Beijing is concerned that North Korea is contributing to an arms buildup in the region.
“In recent years, Japan has never stopped fabricating, exaggerating, and playing up all kinds of threats it faces. In the meantime, it has been expanding its national defense budget, upgrading its military arsenal, and taking steps to implement the new security bill.
“All countries should be on high alert as to what Japan has done and its real motives. We believe that Japan should honestly explain its real motives to the international community,” Hua said.
She urged Japan to “exercise caution in the military and security field,” saying she hopes Tokyo can “learn from history.”
Hua’s comments came just hours after Japanese media reported that the country’s defense ministry was seeking 5.26-trillion yen (US$48 billion) to boost its missile defense capabilities.
As part of the budget plan, Tokyo aims to purchase a land-based anti-missile system known as Aegis Ashore, according to The Japan Times. It is also considering an option of the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), according to AP.
Other purchases would include a SM-3 Block IIA interceptor missile, which the defense ministry says will boost Japan’s defense capabilities and improve its ability to shoot down a ballistic missile launched into space on a steep “lofted” trajectory.
An upgraded version of the current Patriot Advanced Capability-3 anti-missile system would also be bought, allowing for greater ability to down cruise missiles and jets.
The budget would also go towards assembly costs associated with maintaining the US-made Global Hawk reconnaissance aircraft; two compact destroyers; a new lithium battery-powered submarine; and six F-35 stealth fighters to be deployed at Misawa in northern Japan.
If approved, the budget request – which represents a 2.5-percent increase from last year – would represent the sixth straight annual defense spending increase for Japan. It would go into effect for fiscal year 2018, which begins on April 1, 2018.
The Japanese Defense Ministry says the planned upgrades are designed to improve the country’s response to unexpected and simultaneous missile attacks, including ones on a lofted trajectory.
The move comes after North Korea launched a ballistic missile over Japanese airspace on Tuesday, in a move which Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called an “unprecedented, grave, and serious threat.”
Following the launch, China urged all sides to avoid further provocations, while warning that tensions on the Korean Peninsula had reached “tipping point” and were “approaching a crisis.”
China, along with Russia, has developed a ‘double freeze’ plan which would see North Korean suspend its ballistic missile tests in exchange for a halt in joint US-South Korea military drills. The plan has been rejected by Washington.
In addition to North Korea, Japan also views China as a security threat, and has expressed concern about its growing military presence in the disputed South China Sea. It also has an ongoing territorial feud with Beijing in the East China Sea. However, China’s ambassador to Japan accused Tokyo and Washington in March of portraying Beijing as an enemy in order to strengthen their long-standing security alliance.