Friday, August 14, 2020

Japan’s defence plan headed in wrong direction

Aug 13. 2018
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By Cai Hong 
China Daily/ANN

Japan’s defence ministry held a ceremony in Yokohama on July 30 to name the country’s seventh Aegis escort warship; it has been named Maya and is likely to be commissioned around March 2020.

Maya is the Japan Maritime Self-Defence Force’s first vessel equipped with cooperative engagement capability (CEC), a device that can share a large volume of data in real time without the use of satellites and has the capability to intercept missiles and enemy fighter aircraft.

With China in mind, Japan wants to strengthen cooperation with the US military. Aegis warships and E-2D airborne early warning aircraft of the US military stationed in Japan have already been equipped with CEC.

Since March this year, the Japanese government and the ruling Liberal Democratic Party have been showing interest in converting Izumo, a helicopter carrier, into an aircraft carrier. In fact, speaking in parliament recently, Japanese Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera conceded that the ministry is studying the feasibility of retrofitting Izumo so that US F-35B stealth fighter jets could land on it. The retrofitted Izumo would provide rear-area support to US military operations.

Besides, the LDP’s proposals for the new National Defence Programme Guidelines for the 2019-23 period urge the government to introduce a “multipurpose aircraft carrier”. The Japanese government plans to release the guidelines later this year,

If Izumo were converted, the Asahi Shimbun said in a recent editorial, it would be an aircraft carrier with highly enhanced attacking capabilities. And Japan’s gradual shift away from its defence-only principle could trigger a lose-lose arms race with its neighbours.

Among its major defence procurement programmes, Japan is mulling spending 466.4 billion yen (Bt140 billion) to deploy the Aegis Ashore system units made by Lockheed Martin at its Ground Self-Defense Force’s manoeuvring base in Akita prefecture in the north and Yamaguchi prefecture on Honshu island to counter potential missiles from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and China. The advanced radar system to be installed has a range of about 1,000 kilometres, and the Aegis Ashore would start operation in fiscal 2025.

Japan also plans to have all three SDF wings jointly operate the RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned reconnaissance aircraft, which is expected to be introduced in fiscal 2021, in a bid to monitor security situations, including the military movements of China and the DPRK. The Shinzo Abe administration has proposed major changes in Japan’s defence policy, which would change Japan’s pacifist defence policy into a more dynamic one based on bilateral and even multilateral relationships. To that effect, Japan has signed Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreements with Canada and France, in a bid to strengthen cooperation between their militaries.

The Canadian government has released a statement saying the deal would allow the two countries to make efficient use of each other’s military equipment during operations and exercises in Canada, Japan and other locations. 

Japan’s “defence” moves prompted Moscow to express concern over Tokyo’s plan to deploy the Aegis Ashore ballistic missile defence system at the “two-plus-two” meeting between Japanese and Russian foreign and defence ministers in Moscow on July 31. Moscow has long contended that the Aegis Ashore system is a direct national security concern for Russia, as it is part of the US plan to deploy a missile defence system in Asia.

With all these developments, Japan’s new defence programme should be observed closely, because it is an indicator of where the country’s security policy is headed.

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