The Japanese cabinet has approved the largest ever annual defense budget for Japan, moving one step farther from the country’s post-World War II pacifist image.
The 5.05 trillion yen (USD 41.8 billion) in military spending for the next fiscal year beginning in April was approved by the Japanese cabinet on Thursday.
The huge defense budget now needs the approval of the parliament as part of Japan’s 96.7-trillion-yen (USD 800-billion) national budget plan.
If approved by the parliament, Japan’s 2016 defense budget for next year will be 1.5 percent higher compared to the budget for the current fiscal year.
The Asian country will be increasing its defense spending for the fourth consecutive year.
Tokyo says the increased budget is meant to strengthen the protection of a string of southern islands that are subject to a territorial dispute with Beijing.
The new defense budget endorses plans to buy expensive US surveillance drones and F-35 fighter jets.
Taking up a more hawkish stance under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the Japanese government in September pushed controversial security bills into law that would enable Japanese troops to fight abroad for the first time in 70 years.
Earlier in the year, Japan also revised its bilateral defense guidelines with the US to pave the way for more cooperation between the two.
Relations between China and Japan have soured over the past years over a territorial row on a group of uninhabited yet strategically-important islands in the East China Sea, known as the Senkaku in Japan and the Diaoyu in China.
Tensions grew after Tokyo nationalized part of the resource-rich islands in 2012.
China claims the South China Sea almost in its entirety and is involved in a series of disputes with several countries over the issue.