Japan unveils new defense strategy, plans to spend $10B on American goods

Arturo Kim
December 20, 2018

Japan adopted new defense guidelines Tuesday that include plans for its first aircraft carrier and increases in spending and weapons capability in coming years, citing the need to counter potential threats from North Korea and China.

In a separate plan, also approved by the government, Japan pledged to buy 42 F-35s over the next decade, with the F-35B variant widely considered the most likely candidate.

The Yonhap news agency says Japan may have indicated its intention to become a military power.

Officials say two flat-top Izumo-class destroyers, which can now carry up to 14 helicopters, will be refitted to carry the fighters. It also re-emphasizes the U.S. -Japan alliance as vital to Japan's national security.

A cost estimate for the refitted carrier wasn't given.

Japan's government has announced they're refitting their Izumo-class warships to carry F-35B fighter jets.

As a result, Japan may end up just having "floating runways" which may not be useful for most substantial missions, including defence of the remote islands.

But critics argue the move shifts Tokyo further away from its commitment to strictly defensive capabilities under Japan's post-World War II pacifist constitution, which restricts the country from possessing what are deemed to be highly offensive armaments. Japan, under the new defence guidelines, also plans to possess cruise missiles created to hit enemy targets, which opponents say could violate Japan's pacifist principle.

UH-60J rescue helicopter Japan Air Self Defense Force Air Rescue Wing at Chitose Air Base located in Chitose Hokkaido prefecture
AFP 2018 KAZUHIRO NOGIJapan Army Helicopter Possibly Crashed Debris Found- Defense Minister

When rumors of the Japan's carrier plans surfaced last month, China urged Tokyo to be cautious.

Japan says the secretive expansion of China's military footprint creates "strong concerns" in the region. In March 2018, the Russian Air Force deployed two Su-35S fighters to an airfield on Iturup (Etorofu in Japanese) - the largest and northernmost island in the southern Kurils - for the first time.

"We must make sure we have funds for things like social security, which affect people's everyday lives", said Shigeki Sato, a member of the junior coalition Komeito party, who worked on the defense guidelines.

Abe has long sought to enhance Japan's military cooperation with allies. They are each now capable of carrying 14 helicopters, though, when modified, will be able to carry the F-35B variant. Japan plans to spend 235 billion yen ($2.8 billion) to buy a pair of land-fixed USA missile defence systems, Aegis Ashore, as well as other American missile interceptors.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga emphasized to reporters that the new defense package "will enable us to strengthen our defense capabilities", but the government still has to win public support for the record 27.4 trillion yen defense spending planned for the next five years.

Abe is also under pressure from US President Donald Trump to buy more US military equipment.

Russian politicians say they fear Japan might agree to deploy US missile facilities on the islands if it ever got any of them back and that Moscow could only countenance a deal if it received a cast-iron guarantee that ruled out such a scenario. Cost-cutting will free up another 2 trillion yen for purchases, the procurement paper said.

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