The budget approval comes just days after Tokyo announced a decision to deploy a costly missile defence system amid tension on the Korean Peninsula.

Japan's military exercises west of Tokyo, Japan, August 24, 2017.
Japan's military exercises west of Tokyo, Japan, August 24, 2017. (Reuters Archive)

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's Cabinet on Friday approved Japan's biggest $46 billion defence budget to bolster ballistic missile defence capability amid escalating tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

Under the plan, Japan's 2018 defence budget rises 1.3 percent from the current year. It would be the sixth annual increase under Abe, who ended a decade of military budget cuts after taking office in 2012. 

The defence spending is part of Japan's $860 billion national budget for 2018, also the biggest.

The Cabinet also approved an additional $208 million defence spending through March for next-generation missile interceptors — an initial cost of advanced US missile combat systems Aegis Ashore and other equipment.

The budget plans still need parliamentary approval.

TRT World spoke to John Matthews in Tokyo.

The Cabinet's budget approval comes just days after Tokyo announced a decision to deploy a set of the costly land-based Aegis Ashore system to increase Japanese defence against a possibility of incoming missiles from North Korea. 

The exact cost of the two units was not released, but defence ministry officials say it could be $1.8 billion or higher.

Abe backs US President Donald Trump's pressure campaign against North Korea and has pledged to beef up Japan's ballistic missile defence with American weapons.

'National crisis'

Abe has called the DPRK missile threat a "national crisis" for Japan, luring public support for greater military roles and equipment that used to be taboo under Japan's strictly self-defence-only policy.

A missile defence panel of Abe's ruling party earlier this year proposed allowing pre-emptive strikes and use of cruise missiles, though opponents say they violate Japan's pacifist constitution.

The budget plan includes more than $18 million for a 500-kilometre range Norwegian-developed cruise missile that can be fired from F-35 stealth fighter jets. The budget also includes compatibility studies on US-made 900-kilometre (560-mile) range cruise missiles.

Japan is also buying next-generation interceptors jointly developed by Japan and the US for increased range and accuracy, and plans to upgrade its home-made defence air control and advanced radar systems.

Defence officials say Japan needs to drastically and quickly improve its missile defense in the face of North Korea's advancing missile technology. 

The two planned Aegis Ashore systems are aimed at diversifying Japan's current two-step missile defence consisting of Patriot batteries and Aegis-equipped destroyers deployed in the Sea of Japan.

North Korea has test-launched more than a dozen missiles this year, two flying over northern Japan and several others landing inside Japan's 200 nautical-mile exclusive economic zone.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies