Tag Archives: Prime Minister Shinzo Abe

Japan considers building its own fighter jets

AFP reports, Aug. 21, 2014, that a report in the newspaper Nikkei says Japan is considering building its own fighter jets after years of playing second fiddle in a US construction partnership.

There is a growing need for Japan to develop a long-haul, highly stealthy fighter jets in face of China’s increasing assertiveness in the East China Sea, where the two countries are locked in a dispute over a group of Tokyo-controlled islands that Japanese call Senkaku and Chinese call Diao-yu.

Japan’s attempt in the 1980s to build its first purely domestic fighters since World War II faced US resistance and resulted in joint US-Japan development and production of the F-2. But joint F-2 production ended more than two years ago and the last of the fighters are due to be retired from Japan’s air defense force around 2028.

F-2 fighters in Japan's Air Self Defense Force

F-2 fighters in Japan’s Air Self Defense Force

Japan’s defense ministry plans to seek about 40 billion yen ($387 million) in state funding for the next year starting in April 2015 to test experimental engines and radar-dodging stealth airframe designs for a purely Japanese fighter. Developing a purely domestic fighter is estimated to cost a massive 500-800 billion yen ($4.8-7.7 billion).

Four years ago, Japan’s defense ministry began work on the Advanced Technology Demonstrator-X (ATD-X) stealth plane to explore the project’s feasibility by studying lightweight airframe designs and built-in missile-firing mechanisms. The ATD-X was due to start testing experimental engines in January and the stealth airframe designs in April. The ministry hopes to develop the actual engines for the project in cooperation with IHI, Mitsubishi Heavy and other defense contractors in about five years.

Advanced Technology Demonstrator-X stealth plane

Advanced Technology Demonstrator-X stealth plane

Should Japan go forward with producing its own fighter jet, it will likely stoke fears of Japan’s military resurgence among its Asian neighbors.

Beijing regularly warns of what it says is Tokyo’s intent to re-arm on the quiet and that Tokyo’s selective amnesia about its World War II militarism means Japan cannot be trusted to have a fully-fledged military.

Last month the cabinet of conservative Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made a highly controversial shift in the nation’s post-war pacifist stance by proclaiming Japan has the right to go into battle in defense of allies. Tokyo denies its intent is anything other than defensive and, reacting to China’s criticisms, points to Beijing’s opaque military spending and its burgeoning ambitions as the real danger in Asia.

Developing its own domestic fighter is estimated to cost a massive 500-800 billion yen ($4.8-7.7 billion), a decision Tokyo will have to make by the 2018 financial year.

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Japan PM Abe wants to change pacifist Constitution; 59% of Japanese say no

Japan's prime minister, Shinzo Abe

Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe

Why Japan Wants to Break Free of Its Pacifist Past

Japan’s allies offer encouragement, while regional neighbors grow nervous

By Oct. 22, 2013

Hajime Kimura for TIMEA Self-Defense Forces pilot during alert training at the Naha Air Base in Okinawa, Japan, on Sept. 10, 2013

U.S. Marine tilt-rotor aircraft swooped in during a joint training exercise at this military training range in southwestern Japan last week, dropping off Japanese ground troops and peeling away. The soldiers raced to nearby positions, cutting off an opposing force threatening Marines nearby.

As military maneuvers go, it was fairly basic. But had it been a real-world mission, it might also have been illegal.

Under the current interpretation of Japan’s pacifist constitution, Japan’s armed forces are not permitted to fight on behalf of friends or allies unless the Japanese themselves come under direct attack.

It is a policy that conservative Prime Minister Shinzo Abe wants to change. An advisory panel is expected to issue a report by year’s end recommending that Abe issue a new interpretation of the 66-year-old constitution. A new policy is expected, which will permit Japanese troops to come to the aid of not only Americans and other allies, but international peacekeepers and civilian refugees as well.

“Some people fear that if the interpretation is changed, Japan will be able to wage war on the other side of the world, but that’s not what this is about,” says Yuichi Hosoya, a law professor at Keio University and a member of Abe’s Advisory Panel on Reconstruction of the Legal Basis for Security.

(MORE: Return of the Samurai: Japan’s Leadership Seeks to Recapture the Country’s Former Glory)

“The purpose is to enable Japan to help defend members of other countries, be they peacekeepers or civilians. It is about engaging in joint, collective self-defense,” Hosoya says.

At present, about 350 Japanese troops — mostly engineers — are part of a U.N. peacekeeping force in South Sudan. Japanese warships and patrol planes have been taking part in multinational antipiracy missions off the coast of Somalia since 2009.

Japan has wrestled with constitutional limits on its troops for decades. Prior to the 1990s, Japan refused to participate in international peacekeeping operations or other missions that might draw Japanese troops into a fight. Though formidable, Japan’s armed forces are organized, trained and equipped largely for defensive operations.

Nonetheless, China’s rising military strength and assertiveness, and increasing calls for Japan — still one of world’s richest countries — to participate in international peace and security operations has forced a new look at how and when its forces might be allowed to fight.

Under the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty, American forces are obligated to defend Japan against attack. But Japan’s responsibilities for protecting Americans are less clearly defined. Abe says he wants to tighten security relations with Washington, and argues that failure to help defend American forces when necessary could jeopardize the alliance.

“Imagine a situation where a U.S. warship protecting waters around Japan comes under a missile attack when our Aegis ship is nearby,” Abe told reporters in July. “If we don’t shoot [hostile missiles] down despite our capability [to do so], the American ship will sink and many young lives will be lost. Can we maintain the alliance under such a circumstance?”

Americans have been quietly urging Japan to drop the ban on collective self-defense. Australia’s new Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop, said last week that her government welcomes “the direction that the Abe government has taken in terms of having a more normal defense posture and being able to take a constructive role in regional and global security.”

But not everyone thinks that’s a good idea.

China has denounced the debate over collective self-defense as evidence of rising Japanese militarism. Officials in South Korea, another U.S. ally, have expressed reservations about the change in policy as well.

Even in Japan, where support for the self-defense force has grown dramatically since the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, 59% of respondents in a recent Asahi newspaper poll said they opposed any change in the policy.

Abe had been expected to push for revisions during a special session of the Diet that began last week, but has delayed action until the advisory panel issues its report.

For troops training at the Aibano range last week, the policy debate seemed somewhat moot.

About 80 U.S. Marines and 200 members of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force spent two weeks practicing basic infantry skills and working to eliminate language, cultural and operational differences. Though smaller than originally planned, the exercise carried on despite budget chaos in Washington and a typhoon that battered much of eastern and central Japan.

The senior Japanese commander on the scene said the exercise, held twice a year, was unrelated to growing tensions with China or the debate over collective self-defense.

“The strategic environment surrounding our country has changed and the Japanese people are concerned about their security. Our mission is to be ready to protect the peace and security of this country — we are confident we can do that,” said Colonel Sosuke Yoshida, commander of the 37th Infantry Regiment.

Lieut. Colonel Tom Wood, commander of the Third Battalion, Third Marine Regiment, said he was impressed with the planning, maintenance and field skills of the Japanese troops. If they lack anything, he said, it’s the ingrained aggressiveness that U.S. troops have learned through a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“You can see it: they are not an offensive force, they are a self-defense force,” said Wood. “But I’d be happy to serve alongside these guys. We know they’ll be there.”

4 Chinese ships entered Japan territorial waters near Senkaku

SenkakuShips of the People’s Republic of China once again entered Japanese territorial waters off the disputed Senkaku or Diaoyu islands in the East China Sea.

Iran’s Press TV reports (via GlobalSecurity.org) that Japan’s Coast Guard says four Chinese ships have sailed into Japan-controlled waters of the Senkaku islands (known as Diaoyu by China) on Oct. 1. 2013 — the 64th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China.

Tokyo has long been engaged in a dispute with Beijing over the sovereignty of the uninhabited islands.

The incident also came as US Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel are expected to meet their Japanese counterparts in Tokyo two days later on Oct. 3 to discuss operational arrangements for the alliance between the two sides.

Previous similar incidents include:

  • On September 27, China sent a fleet of four vessels for patrolling territorial waters surrounding the disputed chain of islands.
  • On September 14, four Chinese ships entered Japan’s territorial waters.
  • In late April 2013, eight Chinese vessels entered the disputed waters, which led Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to say that Tokyo would “expel by force” any Chinese individuals landing on the islands.

On September 11, 2012, Tokyo signed a deal to buy three of the islands from their private Japanese owner in line with plans to nationalize the archipelago.

The islands are located near a crucial shipping lane and give the owner exclusive oil, mineral and fishing rights in the surrounding waters.

Last month, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said that his country is ready to talk to Japan over the maritime row if Tokyo declares the islands to be disputed.

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