Tokyo, 24th December, 2015 (WAM) — Japan’s defense spending under the fiscal 2016 state budget, adopted Thursday, rose above 5 trillion yen for the first time, boosted by outlays to strengthen the defense of remote islands in response to China’s maritime expansion.

Defense spending set aside for the year from April came to a record 5,054.1 billion yen, eclipsing the previous high of 4,980.1 billion yen in fiscal 2015 and rising for four years in a row, Jiji Press reported today.

With the Defense Ministry facing the growing need to procure equipment for remote island defense, Japan’s defense spending may remain at high levels for years to come.

To step up warning and surveillance activities around the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture, southern Japan, the ministry earmarked 102.6 billion yen for the acquisition of 17 units of the SH-60K reconnaissance helicopter with increased attack capabilities. The figure is on a contract basis also covering payments in fiscal 2017 and beyond.

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The Japanese government adopted on Thursday a fiscal 2016 general-account budget plan with a record spending of 96,721.8 billion yen mainly reflecting massive medical and pension costs amid the rapid aging of the country’s population and expenditures related to support for child-rearing families.

The general-account spending is set to hit a record high for the fourth straight year on an initial budget basis.

The draft budget also includes spending for measures aimed at creating a society enabling dynamic engagement by all people, a key policy of the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

With tax revenue seen hitting a 25-year high, the government plans to reduce new bond issues, excluding refinancing bonds, by some 2.4 trillion yen from the initial budget level for fiscal 2015.

The government will submit the draft budget to next year’s ordinary Diet session, scheduled to start on Jan. 4, aiming to have it enacted by the March 31 end of fiscal 2015.

WAM/tfaham