The threat of a hostile North Korean regime has prompted another Asia-Pacific country to join Australia in increasing its defence budget to record levels during peacetime, with US defence primes set to benefit under the decision.
The Japanese government has approved another record defence budget for the 2018 fiscal year, with the Ministry of Defense requesting an enormous 5,225 billion yen (approx. A$59.8 billion). The approved budget makes it the sixth annual increase in the Japanese Defense portfolio under Prime Minister Shinzō Abe.
Unsurprisingly, the country is looking to bolster its military and equipment to counter threats of missiles from North Korea which fired two missiles over the country in 2017, with one intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) plunging into the waters of Japan's exclusive economic zone in November 2017.
"At a time when North Korea is beefing up its ballistic missile capability, we need to strengthen our capability fundamentally," Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera said.
Some of the big ticket items outlined in Japan's defence outlays include preparations for the construction of two ground-based radar stations that utilise Lockheed Martin's Aegis system, a new longer range interceptor, the Raytheon/Mitsubishi built SM-3 Block IIA, designed to strike ballistic missiles in space, and upgrades for its Patriot missile batteries which are considered the last line of defence against incoming warheads.
A majority of Japan's spending will go towards US-built equipment, a move sure to placate the Trump administration which called on Japan and other US allies to increase their defence spending.
"It’s a lot of jobs for us and a lot of safety for Japan," President Trump said of his calls for Japan to buy US military hardware during a visit to Japan in November 2017.
If Japan takes this path and goes down the route of buying equipment through the US government's Foreign Military Sales program, the decision will likely disappoint local Japanese manufacturers like Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Kawasaki Heavy Industries.
And while North Korea and South Korea have agreed to hold talks with each other, Minister Onodera said this does not change Japan's current stance.
"As North Korea has not changed its stance of continuing nuclear and missile development, Japan believes that it is important to increase the international community's pressure on North Korea under the leadership of Japan, the United States and the ROK while maintaining close co-operation between the three countries," the minister said.