On January 14, 2015, Japan approved its biggest defense budget ever for the next fiscal year. According to Business Insider, until March 2016, “Tokyo will spend 4.98 trillion yen ($41.97 billion)”; previously, the highest Japanese budget was the “4.96 trillion yen earmarked in 2002”. Part of the new budget will be spent on acquiring new capabilities, especially maritime ones: “20 "P-1" maritime patrol aircraft, with a combined price tag of 350 billion yen, [...] five V-22 "Osprey" – crossover aircraft, which have the maneuverability of helicopters and the range of airplanes – along with six high-tech F-35A stealth fighters, [...] 30 units of amphibious vehicles and one E-2D airborne early-warning aircraft”. Japan “is looking to get a fleet of "Global Hawk" drones over a five-year period, and part of the purchase will come out of this budget”, while another part of the funds will also be spent on “the construction of one Aegis destroyer”.
The approval of Japan’s biggest defense budget to date comes “in response to China’s increasing military influence in the region and Beijing’s claims to a group of disputed islands administered by Tokyo” in the East China Sea – namely the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands. In addition, “[Shinzo] Abe is expected to push for legislation to reinterpret Japan’s constitution to allow Japanese troops to fight alongside allies on foreign soil for the first time since the end of the second world war”. Beyond the tensions with China, the approval of Japan’s record defense budget can also be a consequence of North Korea’s ongoing missile and nuclear development programs.
The newly adopted defense budget allows Japan to increase and consolidate its military power, in order to be able to cope with the increasing Chinese assertiveness and influence. Beijing is also in the process of expanding its military power, as less than a month ago, “China commissioned its latest guided missile destroyer, the Jinan 052C”, a ship that will “will help the PLAN to expand its ability to operate in the open ocean away from China's coasts” and which “could allow China to further press its territorial ambitions throughout the Pacific and the South China Sea”. We might be witnessing the beginning of an arms race, as both Tokyo and Beijing, two of the world’s leading economies, are developing and acquiring new military capabilities. This could lead to a further escalation of the tensions between the two powers, which would degrade the regional (and international) balance of power.
 Harumi OZAWA, “Japan just Approved Its Biggest-Ever Defense Budget”, Business Insider, January 14, 2015, accessed at the Internet address http://www.businessinsider.com/afp-japan-approves-biggest-ever-defence-budget-amid-asia-tensions-2015-1
Justin MCCURRY, “Japan reveals record defence budget as tensions with China grow”, The Guardian, January 14, 2015, accessed at the Internet address http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jan/14/japan-reveals-record-defence-budget-as-tensions-with-china-grow
Jeremy BENDER, “China Is Building A New Fleet Of Guided Missile Destroyers”, Business Insider, January 5, 2015, accessed at the Internet address http://www.businessinsider.com/china-unveiled-newest-warship-2015-1