Meant to counter China's growing military power, the new five-year defence plan calls for the upgrade of two existing helicopter carriers so that they can launch fighters, and is the latest in a series of steps under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to boost Japan's military.
The protest was made through a diplomatic channel in Moscowon Tuesday, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said during a news conference.
"In order to improve flexibility of fighter jets operation and, in particular, strengthen the air defense posture... we will upgrade Maritime Self-Defense Force's multipurpose helicopter destroyers (Izumo-class) so that [US F-35B] fighter jets capable of short take-offs and vertical landings (STOVL) could be deployed when necessary, for example for emergency response to aerial attacks, monitoring, training and disaster response", the text of the five-year midterm defense buildup program read.
Japan says the secretive expansion of China's military footprint creates "strong concerns" in the region.
"We believe this is within ... what is allowed under the constitution".
The Japanese government is reportedly planning to buy 105 F-35 jets from the United States to replace an ageing fleet of F-15s.
"The Izumo-class destroyers will continue to serve as multi-function, multi-purpose destroyers".
Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) lodged an official protest over the issue in the same month.
Nonetheless, the modification will enable the Izumo to be a more all-round carrier that can "operate in a much more hostile environment than before, therefore enhancing its value as an anti-submarine warfare platform while building on its air defense capability", he added. The spending plans also call for Japan's first aircraft carrier as well as long-range cruise missiles, giving the country the ability to strike distant enemy targets.
"That is not going to happen", he said. The refitting of a second helicopter carrier would follow. Japan's US arms purchases have surged, and the Defence Ministry came under criticism by the government's Board of Audit for agreeing too easily to Washington's hefty asking price.
The new five-year defense plan calls for the military to upgrade two existing "helicopter carriers" so that they will also be able to launch fighter jets, and is the latest in a series of steps under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to boost Japan's military.
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.
Japan will spend $10 billion on 147 F-35s over the next decade and refit an existing helicopter carrier into a ship that can deploy 42 USA -made F-35B stealth fighters capable of short takeoffs and vertical landings.
The ships will not be built from scratch, and will instead be converted from a pair of flat-top Izumo-class helicopter carriers that are now operated by the Japanese Navy.
The separate plan endorsed by the cabinet on Tuesday, says they will buy 42 F-35s over the next decade, with the F-35B variant widely considered the likeliest candidate.
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