Politics World News

Japan to spend more on defense, refit 1st aircraft carrier

Written by Maritime First

…As Tinubu wants 3 million votes for Buhari in Lagos over 2019 election***

Japan plans its first aircraft carrier and big increases in defense spending and weapons capability in the coming years, according to new defense guidelines approved Tuesday that cite its need to counter potential threats from North Korea and China and other vulnerabilities.

The guidelines approved at a meeting of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Cabinet call for refitting an existing helicopter carrier into a ship that can deploy expensive, U.S.-made F-35B stealth fighters capable ofshort takeoffs and vertical landings. Japan plansto buy 147 F-35s, including 42 F-35Bs, over the next decade.

The guidelines would replace the current defense plan halfway through and underscore Abe’s push to expand Japan’s military role and capability to make it “a normal country” in Abe’s words. He has long wanted to revise Japan’s U.S.-drafted constitution that renounces war and has already broadened the concept of self-defense to allow Japanese personnel to defend allied military forces as Japan increasingly works alongside American troops.

Defense officials say Japan needs higher deterrence and increased missile defense and fighter capability as North’s missile and nuclear threat remains unchanged in the absence of concrete steps to dismantle them, and China’s maritime activity has grown increasingly assertive. The new guidelines say Japan needs to be well-prepared and to show it can withstand threats, noting the archipelago is prone to natural disasters and its coastline is dotted with vulnerable nuclear power plants.

Officials say the Maritime Self-Defense Force’s helicopter carrier Izumo, a 250-meter (820-foot)-long, flat-top destroyer that can carry 14 helicopters, is set to be refitted as an aircraft carrier. Japan has relatively little land on which to build runways long enough for conventional F-35s, and an aircraft carrier would be particularly useful in the western Pacific, where Japan tries to defend remote islands, including those disputed with China, and to play a greater role as part of the U.S.-Japan alliance.

A cost estimate for the refitted carrier wasn’t given. The work would be done over five years and the ship would carry 10 stealth fighters. The refitting of a second helicopter carrier would follow.

The step is a major shift to Japan’s postwar naval defense, which has lacked aircraft carriers in part out of concerns that they may remind Japan’s Asian neighbors of aggression by Japan’s wartime navy.

Critics say possession of an aircraft carrier would give Japan a strike capability in violation of its pacifist constitution that limits use of force to self-defense only. Japan, under the new defense guidelines, also plans to possess cruise missiles designed to hit enemy targets, which opponents say could go beyond Japan’s pacifist principle.

Defense officials brushed off the criticism, saying Izumo will be a multifunctional warship used as aircraft carrier only when necessary for national defense.

Chief Cabinet secretary Yoshihide Suga said the plan is mainly for fighter pilots in case of an emergency at sea and that it “falls within the minimum necessity allowed under the constitution.” He said the revised guidelines presented what Japan truly needs to protect the people and portrayed what Japan’s future defense should be.

The guidelines say Japan needs to beef up its air defense capability in the Pacific, while expanding surveillance in the area. The Defense Ministry says Japan plans to purchase 105 conventional F-35s and 42 F-35Bs to replace some of its fleet of F-15s.

The big price tag for the jets — a F-35B costs about 10 billion yen ($90 million) — will drive up Japan’s defense spending, which has already climbed steadily for six straight years since Abe took office at the end of 2012. Japan plans to spend 235 billion yen ($2 billion) to buy a pair of land-fixed U.S. missile defense system, Aegis Ashore, as well as other American missile interceptors.

The Cabinet, under the guidelines, also approved a new Medium Term Defense Program requiring a record five-year defense spending of 27 trillion yen ($240 billion) beginning 2019, up more than 2 trillion yen ($17.6 billion) from an earlier five-year defense budget.

As Japan comes under pressure from President Donald Trump to allow more exports from the U.S., purchases of costly American weapons would be a way to reduce the U.S. trade deficit, while enhancing military cooperation between the allies. Japan’s U.S. arms purchases have surged, and the Defense Ministry came under criticism for agreeing too easily to Washington’s hefty asking price. The guidelines said Japan will seek more cost-efficient purchase of advance-capability U.S. equipment, while pushing for more joint research and development.

Buying more American weapons, however, would be a setback for Japan’s defense industry and its hopes to develop its own replacement of F-2 fighter jets are uncertain. The guideline did not mention whether the F-2 successor would be made made-in-Japan or jointly developed.

The guidelines also called for setting up a unit specializing in space, cyberattacks and electronic warfare, while integrating the ground maritime and air forces to better coordinate operations. Japan should aim for a unified, simultaneous “multi-dimensional and unified defense capability” that breaks away from the conventional concept of ground, maritime and air defense, the guidelines said.

As the fast-aging country faces declining population and workforce, Japan will accept more women to join the self-defense force, postpone retirement age and promote research and development of robotics and unmanned equipment.

In the meantime, the national leader of the All Progressives Congress, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, on Monday urged party members in Lagos State to deliver three million votes for President Muhammadu Buhari in the 2019 presidential election.

Tinubu, who said APC must maintain strong outing in the state, told party members to also vote overwhelmingly for the party’s governorship, National Assembly and state House of Assembly candidates.

He spoke during a meeting with all APC stakeholders, including Governor Akinwunmi Ambode and the party’s governorship candidate, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu, at the party secretariat in Lagos.

He urged Nigerians to reject the Peoples Democratic Party in all elections.

He said, “We are still waiting for the official list of candidates from the Independent National Electoral Commission; that is why we have not inaugurated the campaigns.

“What is important at this moment is where Nigeria is going. Here in Lagos, we must maintain a strong outing for the APC.

“We must differentiate between developmental economy and container economy. We must educate our people that we will not accept to get Nigeria corrupt again.

“We suffered 16 years of their failures and empty promises. We in Lagos survived them and we made progress. We are today the fifth largest economy in  Africa.

“They do not have the number. We have six million solid votes in Lagos. I challenge all of you, your target must be 50 per cent of those votes for APC- three million votes of the entire six million votes.

“You will do it for Buhari, Osinbajo, senators, governor, House of Representatives and House of Assembly candidates.”

Ambode had during his address promised to work for the success of the party and hand over to Sanwo-Olu as governor on May 29, 2019.

He said, “We are one party and one family. If this is so, we should proceed to make APC to continue to rule at the centre and Lagos State. So, our stakeholders and elders, I seek your solidarity and support for all our candidates.

“This is the way the campaign will go. On February 16, the whole of Lagos will vote for Buhari, while on March 2, we already know it is Sanwo-Olu/ Hamzat that will take over from me in good spirit.”

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Maritime First