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Pacific News Minute: Arms Race Underway in Asia Pacific

Wikipedia Commons
Wikipedia Commons

After his brief visit on Oahu, President Obama flies out to Midway Atoll, and then onto Hangzhou, China to take his place with the leaders of the top twenty economic powers. This year's G20 summit comes amid rising tensions in both the East and South China Seas, and accelerated defense spending.  More from Neal Conan in the Pacific News Minute.

Yesterday, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's government asked the Diet to approve a $50 billion defense budget, 2.3% over last year, and the 5th increase in a row.  Amid a broader debate over Japan's pacifist constitution, the country is buying new weapons- Soryu class submarines, 100 F 35 Joint Strike fighters, helicopter carriers and the new budget emphasizes new anti-ballistic missile systems to protect against the threat from North Korea, and anti-ship missiles, to protect Japan's disputed islands in the East China Sea.

Australia's defense spending is projected to jump 81% over the next decade, including what's been described as the most comprehensive regeneration of its navy since the Second World War.  Earlier this year, Australia placed a $39 billion order for 12 new submarines; it's also buying 3 new destroyers, nine new frigates, new maritime patrol planes, new helicopters and at least 72 F-35s.

The big spenders, of course, are China and the United States...after many years of double digit annual growth, China's defense budget is up 8% this year to $146 billion...the US budget comes in north of $600 billion...more than the next eight countries combined.

And smaller countries are spending, too...Vietnam just bought supersonic anti-ship missiles from India and the Philippines, another country on the front lines of the South China Sea dispute, just received its first two jet fighters.

Over 36 years with National Public Radio, Neal Conan worked as a correspondent based in New York, Washington, and London; covered wars in the Middle East and Northern Ireland; Olympic Games in Lake Placid and Sarajevo; and a presidential impeachment. He served, at various times, as editor, producer, and executive producer of All Things Considered and may be best known as the long-time host of Talk of the Nation. Now a macadamia nut farmer on Hawaiʻi Island, his "Pacific News Minute" can be heard on HPR Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.
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