News Briefs – September 4, 2019

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Japan defense costs swell on greater role, purchases from U.S.

Japan’s defense spending is expected to set a record next year as the country strengthens its military alliance with the U.S. and buys expensive American weapons amid threats from China and North Korea.
The Defense Ministry’s 5.32 trillion yen ($50.3 billion) request for fiscal 2020, released Aug. 30, is up 1.2 percent from this year and could swell further if Japan agrees to pay more of the cost of stationing U.S. troops in the country.
Under pressure from President Donald Trump, Japan has been buying costly military equipment as a way of reducing the U.S. trade deficit while bolstering defense cooperation.
Among the biggest purchases are six F-35B stealth fighters at 14 billion yen ($132 million) each for deployment in 2024. AP
 

Hawaii’s USS Arizona Memorial reopens after 15-month repair

The USS Arizona Memorial has welcomed large crowds to its reopening after 15 months of repairs.
Hawaii News Now reported the memorial received thousands of sightseers Sept. 1 for the first time since its closure by the National Park Service in May 2018.
Pearl Harbor National Memorial Acting Superintendent Steve Mietz says workers “had to rebuild the system from scratch” to allow safe access.
Exceptionally high tides in 2017 are believed to have dislodged concrete blocks sunk into Pearl Harbor’s sediment and connected by chains to the dock.
The repair project cost more than $2.1 million.
U.S. Rep. Ed Case says he worked with Hawaii’s congressional leaders to speed the project.
Officials say visitor traffic to the national park decreased by about 30 percent after the memorial’s closure. AP
 

New U.S.-led patrols in Persian Gulf raise stakes with Iran

The United States is trying a new way to protect shipping across the Persian Gulf amid tensions with Iran but is finding itself sailing into uncertain waters.
The U.S. Navy is trying to put together a new coalition of nations to counter what it sees as a renewed maritime threat from Iran.
Meanwhile, Iran finds itself backed into a corner and ready for a possible conflict. It stands poised on Sept. 6 to further break the terms of its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.
For decades, the U.S. has considered the waters of the Persian Gulf as critical to its national security. Through the gulf’s narrow mouth, the Strait of Hormuz, 20 percent of all crude oil sold passes onto the world market. Any disruption there likely will see energy prices spike. AP