Japan protests Russian military build-up on island disputed since Second World War

Hugh Fox
December 20, 2018

The news came after the Kremlin said Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe might visit Russian Federation on January 21 as part of efforts to defuse the territorial dispute that has prevented them from signing a World War II peace treaty.

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

Japan intends to procure more F-35 fighter jets, shipborne unmanned aircraft and submarines, according to newly released midterm defense guidelines and an associated defense plan.

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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. Japan plans to buy 147 F-35s, including 42 F-35Bs, over the next decade.

In November, Russia and Japan agreed to accelerate talks to formally end World War II hostilities, using a Soviet-era peace declaration as their starting point and throwing into doubt the fate of four disputed islands. The 248-meter-long Izumo-class ships are as big as any of Japan's aircraft carriers in World War II.

The United States, followed by China, North Korea and Russian Federation, are the countries that most influenced Japan's latest military thinking, the paper said.

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Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has expressed interest in amending the country's constitution in order to allow Japan more control over defending its territory. Japan plans to spend 235 billion yen ($2.8 billion) to buy a pair of land-fixed US missile defence systems, Aegis Ashore, as well as other American missile interceptors.

Russian politicians say they fear Japan might agree to deploy United States missile facilities on the islands if any are returned to Tokyo, and that Moscow could only countenance a deal if it received a guarantee that ruled out such a scenario.

"Under the drastically changing security environment the government will make every effort to protect the Japanese people and their peaceful lives in accordance with the National Defense Program Guidelines", Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a briefing. The guidelines said Japan will seek more cost-efficient purchase of advance-capability USA equipment, while pushing for more joint research and development.

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Japan will also increase its order for F-35A jets, which take off and land on conventional runways, to 105, the government said.

The government's plan also seeks an increase in the country's defense-related footprint in space and improved cyber capabilities, as well as a buildup of multi- and cross-domain capabilities. The measure emphasizes Japan's need to counter potential threats from North Korea and China as it enlarges its navy.

Wallace said the future could conceivably see US F-35s operating from Japanese ships and/or Japanese F-35s flying off American ones. The foreign military sales arrangement is used by Washington to prevent sensitive military technology from leaking, but critics say it is making Japan buy equipment at the asked price that is extremely expensive.

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On the Izumo refurbishment, Hua said Japan's Asian neighbors and the global community are very interested in the country's defense development in light of history.

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