As Japan prepares to officially announce its record-high $51.7 billion military budget proposal, it seeks to double the payload of its 200 F-15 jet fighters in an attempt to cool down Chinese military presence near southern Japanese islands.
Japanese military budget for fiscal year 2017, which will end in March 2018, includes a number of costly measures aimed to significantly bolster Japanese military amid rising tensions in South China Sea in particular and in the region in general.
Among other things, Japan seeks to boost weapon capacity of their 200 US-made F-15 jet fighters, by doubling the amount of air-to-air missiles they carry, from 8 to 16 per plane.
The Japanese Air Self Defense Force (ASDF) is also going to extend the planes’ lifespan by starting a massive repair program for damaged planes.
The proposed military program, which will be officially introduced later this month, reportedly includes the purchase of an undisclosed number of controversial Lockheed Martin F-35 jet fighters and development of unmanned drone fighter jet, which is set to be put in operation by year 2037.
The massive increase in military appropriations out of Tokyo may be warranted in response to Beijing’s growing animosity towards its longstanding regional rival including recent air contact between Chinese and Japanese warplanes over the East China Sea.
The two countries are embroiled in a territorial dispute regarding the Senkaku (known by China as Diaoyu) Islands with both China and Japan holding overlapping claims. The West recognizes Japan’s control of the Senkaku Islands, a reality that may be increasingly unfavorable to China in light of the international pressure mounted on Beijing over the separate territorial dispute in the South China Sea.
Japan has inflamed historical tensions by beckoning China to give up its claim to the South China Sea, which includes islands and a valuable swath of water through which 40% of the world’s shipborne trade transits each day, despite the fact that Tokyo itself is not a party to that dispute. China has repeatedly warned of war against Japan if it should undertake joint naval operations with the US in the contested area.