Japan considers a boost in military purchases

Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force's Type 74 tanks (C) participate in the "Fire Power 2008" at the Higashifuji Training Field in Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan, on August 24, 2008. (UPI Photo/Keizo Mori)
Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force's Type 74 tanks (C) participate in the "Fire Power 2008" at the Higashifuji Training Field in Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan, on August 24, 2008. (UPI Photo/Keizo Mori) | License Photo

TOKYO, Dec. 20 (UPI) -- Japan's Cabinet has approved a national security strategy that would boost spending on military equipment, officials said.

The strategy, that includes the revised National Defense Program Guidelines and a Mid-term Defense Program, could start the export of weapons from Japan for the first time since the second world war.


The guidelines call for a revision of a pillar of Japan's postwar pacifism -- the export of weapons under the new principle of "a proactive pacifism," Asahi Shimbun reported this week.

The Mid-Term Defense Program will boost spending on military personnel and equipment by just under $10 billion over five years to $391 billion starting next year.

The upper limit for military personnel has been set at 159,000, 5,000 more than the previous guidelines compiled when the Democratic Party of Japan was in power.

On Japan's hardware shopping list are 17 new Bell Boeing Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft and three Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk surveillance drones.


The government is keen on buying 52 amphibious vehicles -- the same as those used by the U.S. Marine Corps -- and on reducing the number of tanks in favor of 99 8-wheeled combat vehicles.

Air force purchases will include 28 Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning fighter jets, four new early-warning aircraft and three new air-refueling and transportation aircraft.

The approvals come at a time of strong concerns about the intentions of China and North Korea in the southeast Asia region, Asahi Shimbun reported.

Details for exporting weapons under the National Defense Program Guidelines still must be hammered out between the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and the junior coalition partner New Komeito which has argued for a cautious weakening of the principles of weapons export.

Details are expected to focus on strict control of weapon uses after they have been exported.

The strategy calls for the exclusion of some weapons from export and limiting the cases in which other weapons can be sold overseas. As well, there must be strict oversight of weapons use after export, such as ensuring they are used for the purpose in which they were purchased.

The guidelines call for the forward export of Japanese weapons to third-party nations to be strictly monitored and controlled.


The guidelines point to joint development and manufacturing of weapons to keep costs down and strengthen the international competitiveness of Japan's defense industry.

The National Defense Program Guidelines call for a greater integration of Japan's air, ground and maritime defense forces.

A new amphibious unit would counter foreign incursions and invasions of outlying islands.

Asahi Shimbun reported that the unit was suggested with an eye toward China's increasing naval presence, in particular surrounding the Japanese-controlled Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea.

Japan also will consider strengthening its ballistic missile defense system to counter threats such as that from North Korea.

Japan first increased defense spending in January after a decade of cuts and set up a National Security Council in the face of increasing concern over Chinese intentions and territorial claims in the region, the BBC reported.

The guidelines stated that "China's stance toward other countries and military moves, coupled with a lack of transparency regarding its military and national security policies, represent a concern to Japan and the wider international community and require close watch."

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said approval of the two national security strategy documents make Japan's foreign and security policy "clear and transparent" for every country.


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