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Japan Approves Major Hike in Military Spending, With Taiwan in Mind – The New York Times

TOKYO — Japan’s cabinet on Friday approved the country’s biggest increase in military spending in decades, as officials expressed growing concern about the possibility of being pulled into a conflict over Taiwan.

The increase of 6.5 percent is part of the largest annual budget package in Japan’s history, totaling more than $940 billion. It includes hundreds of billions in spending meant to help the economy recover from damage inflicted by the coronavirus pandemic.

It also includes more than $51.5 billion for the military, reflecting a substantial increase in a defense budget far smaller than that of its ally the United States or of China, the regional giant. Officials have argued that the spending is needed to protect Japan in a security environment that is becoming “more challenging at unprecedented speed.”

In recent months, Japanese politicians and policymakers have said that regional stability is facing growing threats because of tensions between the United States and China, which some fear could lead to conflict over Taiwan, accidental or otherwise.

In light of those concerns, officials have increased the pace and scope of military exercises with the United States and other nations, and they have accelerated spending on projects seen as key to protecting Japan against a possible conflict near its shores.

The spending approved by the cabinet is less than what Japan’s defense ministry requested this summer. While large by Japanese standards, it is far below the military budgets of the United States, at around $778 billion, and China, estimated at $252 billion. The new figure includes spending approved last month in Japan’s largest-ever supplementary defense budget.

Japan’s Parliament must still approve the budget figures, but there is little doubt that it will do so.

Military spending in Japan has increased steadily since former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took office in 2012, promising to strengthen the country’s military forces and revise its pacifist Constitution. That charter, drawn up by the American occupiers after World War II, forbids Japan to wage war except in self-defense. Conservative politicians have long sought to change that provision, arguing that the country needs more flexibility to defend itself against regional threats.

For many years, that meant North Korea, whose nuclear and missile tests were seen as posing a threat to Japan. But in recent years, Japan has come to see a greater danger in China’s military buildup and its increasing assertiveness in the region.

Japan and China both claim sovereignty over a group of Japanese-controlled islets in the East China Sea, known as the Senkakus in Japanese and the Diaoyu in Chinese. But over the last year, defense hawks in Japan have focused more intently on rising tensions over Taiwan.

Updated 

Dec. 23, 2021, 4:47 p.m. ET

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Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/12/23/business/japan-defense-spending.html

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Mount St. Helens Hiking Club hikes open to the public – Longview Daily News

The Mount St. Helens Hiking Club typically holds several hikes each month. Anyone interested in the hikes is welcome.

Because of the uncertainty of the COVID pandemic, all activities will take place only if the leader feels it is safe to do so on the date of the hike and hiking groups may be limited at the discretion of the hike leader. Prospective hikers are asked to always be safe, protect themselves and be considerate of others during the pandemic.

For details and the meeting place for carpooling, contact the hike leader listed or visit www.mtsthelensclub.org. It always is necessary to call the activity leader to register for hikes. Return times are approximate.

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Woman Sunbathes on a Rock While Hiking, Helicopter Is Called to Rescue Her – Newsweek

A woman who decided to sunbathe on some rocks while out on a hike was shocked when a helicopter was called to rescue her.

KoKo, from North California, decided to take a walk along the Buttermilk trail, in Bridgeport, Nevada County, when she spotted a sunny rock about half a mile in.

In a series of TikTok videos on her account, @koko.sierra, she described the rescue effort which was launched, with her most popular clip amassing more than eight million views.

In the clip she films herself looking up at the chopper, with the on-screen text saying: “POV [point of view] you stop on a hike to sunbathe and the park rangers send a helicopter because they think you have passed ou…….