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Japan ups military budget as tensions grow with China
January 10, 2013, 2:12 pm

Anti-Japanese protesters demonstrate over the disputed Diaoyu Islands. [Getty Images]

Anti-Japanese protesters demonstrate over the disputed Diaoyu Islands. [Getty Images]

Japanese media reported Thursday that fighter jets had been deployed after Chinese planes were spotted nearing a set of islands at the heart of a territorial dispute between the two countries.

The reports came a day after Japan’s foreign ministry called in Beijing’s ambassador to protest the presence of Chinese vessels near the Tokyo-controlled Senkaku islands.

China has long claimed the islands, which it calls Diaoyus, as part of its territory.

A day earlier, the government of newly elected Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had agreed to boost military spending following a Defence Ministry request to increase its budget as it tries to bolster its readiness.

The government’s pledge of $2.1 billion is in addition to the Defence Ministry’s increase of $1.1 billion requested last week.

If approved by the Finance Ministry, the total would mark a six per cent increase over last year’s military budget and be the first time in more than a decade that Japan has increased its military spending.

The military’s overall budget before the increase stood at $54 billion.

Analysts say the budget increase this week indicates the conservative government is concerned by growing militarization in the region.

Last week, North Korea successfully fired a rocket which flew over Japan.

Pyongyang said it was a peaceful weather observation satellite launch, but Japan and other countries in the region condemned the move and called for harsher sanctions.

Tensions have also been escalating with China. The Japanese daily Sankei Shimbun newspaper had earlier reported the number of times Tokyo scrambled fighter jets to intercept Chinese planes nearing the disputed islands had increased in the past few weeks.

The Philippines announced on Thursday that Japan had agreed to supply it with coast guard patrol ships. The announcement was made on the sidelines of Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida’s meetings with his Philippine counterparts in Manila to discuss trade and tensions in the East and South China seas.

Source: Agencies

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