12/19/2018, 10.20
JAPAN
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Tokyo, Abe rearms: imminent launch of first aircraft carriers since 1945

The government follows up on the promise to purchase more US military equipment. The five-year plan imposes a record spending of 27.47 trillion yen (244 billion euro) for Defense until March 2024. Critics defend the pacifist constitution.

Tokyo (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The armed forces of Japan will receive the first aircraft carriers since World War II and dozens of fighter planes. Yesterday's approval of the new Defense plan is however the subject of criticism from the public. Intended to counter the growing Chinese military power, the five-year program is Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's latest move to strengthen the country's military apparatus.

Abe argues that efforts are needed in light of the growing security challenges in the region, including tensions with North Korea and, above all, the "strong concerns" over the expansion of Beijing's military footprint. His critics, however, maintain that the move distances Tokyo from the principles that animated the pacifist constitution of the post-Second World War: it limits the country to possess armaments considered offensive.

The five-year plan imposes a record expenditure of 27.47 trillion yen (244 billion euro) on Defense until March 2024. The ministry will upgrade two Izumo-class destroyers (low-end). The warships, currently used as helicopter holders, will be able to transport fighter jets with a short take-off capacity and vertical landing, such as the F-35B stealth fighter.

In a separate plan, also approved by the government, Japan pledged to buy 42 F-35s over the next decade, with the F-35B variant widely considered the most likely candidate. During the same period, it expects to obtain 105 F-35A, a variant of the jet that performs conventional take-offs and landings and therefore can not be used on destroyers.

The latest moves by the Japanese government follow promises to buy more US military equipment. US President Donald J. Trump had repeatedly complained about Washington's major trade deficit with Tokyo and urged Abe to expand the country's defensive capacity.

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