Japan Military Exercise

Japan Ground Self-Defense Force anti-land mine missile is launched during an annual live firing exercise at Higashi Fuji range on Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014. (AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi)

TOKYO (AP) — Japan’s Defense Ministry is requesting its biggest ever budget to bolster its military ability to defend remote southern islands amid China’s growing activity in the area.

The ministry on Friday requested a 5 trillion yen ($48 billion) budget for the year beginning April 2015, a 3.5 percent increase from the current year.

The rise largely comes from purchases of new equipment, including P-1 surveillance aircraft, F-35 fighter jets and unmanned drones, as well as the cost of newly establishing amphibious units to boost island defense.

The request is based on Japan’s new defense guidelines released in December allowing its military to play a greater role amid heightened tension with China over a cluster of uninhabited islands in the East China Sea claimed by both countries.

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