The Defense Ministry on Wednesday requested a record 5.49 trillion yen ($52 billion) budget for fiscal 2021, placing a strong priority on beefing up capabilities in the new domains of outer space, cyberspace and the electromagnetic spectrum.

The request is up 3.3 percent from the initial budget for the current fiscal year through March 2021, with defense spending expected to rise for the ninth consecutive year under Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who has pledged to advance the course set by his long-serving predecessor Shinzo Abe.

The ministry requested 123.7 billion yen, compared with 104.7 billion yen it sought a year earlier, for outer space. The envisioned budget includes research costs for an optical telescope to monitor unidentified objects and for a satellite constellation to detect hypersonic weapons of China and Russia.

Photo taken on June 15, 2020, shows the headquarters of Japan's Defense Ministry in Tokyo. Japan announced the same day that it will halt the process of deploying two land-based Aegis Ashore missile defense systems in the country as a way of boosting its capability to counter the threat of North Koran missiles, citing costs and the timing of deployment. (Kyodo) 

As for cyberspace, it requested 35.7 billion yen, up from 23.8 billion a year ago, to finance a plan to set up a new unit of the Self-Defense Forces, consisted of around 540 members who will be in charge of protecting the country's security in this domain.

Japan's latest defense guidelines adopted in December 2018 say the new domains can "fundamentally change the shape of national security," which has previously mainly focused on conventional ground, sea and air spheres.

Regarding electronic warfare, the ministry plans to set up a specialized unit of the Ground Self-Defense Force at the Asaka base straddling Tokyo and Saitama Prefecture.

About 7.1 billion yen was sought for the purchase of devices to be installed on electronic intelligence aircraft and 3.3 billion yen was for research costs for a system to shoot down drones with a high-power laser.

Meanwhile, the ministry did not specify the amount of its request for the alternative to the scrapped deployment plan of land-based U.S. developed Aegis Ashore missile defense units.

With the defense units, Abe, who ended his nearly eight-year tenure in office on Sept. 16 for health reasons, had hoped to better counter threats from North Korea.

Japan will come up with a substitute plan by the end of this year, which is expected to further push up Japan's defense budget, given that the defense ministry has narrowed it down to three costly sea-based alternatives.

File photo taken on the Hawaiian island of Kauai in January 2019, shows an Aegis Ashore missile-defense system at the Pacific Missile Range Facility of the U.S. Navy. (Kyodo)

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