TOKYO – Japan's Defense Ministry is asking for a record-high budget for fiscal 2018 to bolster missile defense against North Korea's escalating threats.
The 5.26 trillion yen ($48 billion) request, announced Thursday, involves a 2.5 percent increase. The big chunk of it will cover purchases of missile interceptors with expanded range, altitude and accuracy, such as the ship-to-air SM-3 Block IIA and the surface-to-air PAC-3 MSE.
Fears about North Korea's missile and nuclear threats have intensified this week after Pyongyang's latest test launch crossed northern Japan.
The ministry also seeks to add the land-based Aegis Ashore missile defense system, while considering an option of the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense.
If approved by parliament, it would be the sixth annual increase under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who ended decadelong defense budget cuts.