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HOME  > Past issues  > 2018 December 12 - 18  > Abe gov’t to allow SDF to possess aircraft carrier in violation of the Constitution
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2018 December 12 - 18 [POLITICS]

Abe gov’t to allow SDF to possess aircraft carrier in violation of the Constitution

December 12, 2018

The government panel on national security and defense capability on December 11 held a meeting to exchange views regarding the new National Defense Program Guidelines. In the meeting, the Abe government proposed its outline of the new defense guidelines and the next mid-term defense buildup plan for FY2019-2023. The new defense guidelines include a plan to convert the Maritime Self-Defense Force’s largest helicopter carrier escort ship, Izumo, into an aircraft carrier. It is likely that the Abe Cabinet will approve these military buildup policies early next week.

If the MSDF Izumo-class helicopter destroyer is converted into an aircraft carrier, it would be capable of carrying F-35B short take-off and vertical landing fighters which are designed to engage in multiple missions, including air-to-ground strikes. This would make it possible for Japan to mount a pre-emptive attack on a remote enemy nation with the use of carrier-born aircraft. The Abe government’s intent to turn Japan into a nation fighting wars abroad based on the national security legislation (aka war laws) has reached a dangerous stage.

Successive governments have long explained that given its capabilities, an offensive aircraft carrier is a war machine exclusively used to deliver a devastating blow to distant hostile territory, and insisted that the “possession of such warships is prohibited” under the Constitution (the then Defense Agency Chief Kawara Riki on April 6, 1988, at a House of Councilors Budget Committee meeting).

In order to justify the conversion plan, the Abe government and the ruling party began arguing that F-35B fighter jets will be operated as carrier-born aircraft not “on a routine basis” but only “on demand”.

Defense Minister Iwaya Takeshi at a press conference on December 11 said that the government has taken the position that an attack aircraft carrier is operated with aircraft necessary to strike enemies on board and is capable of bringing destructive damage to a hostile nation. Therefore, he explained, a vessel that carries aircraft which have their home bases occasionally in response to assignment of a duty is not an attack aircraft carrier. The same doublespeak explanation was made at a meeting of the LDP on the day.

However, this explanation is a cheap trick in wording intended to deceive the general public.

In the first place, although U.S. carrier-based aircraft took part in preemptive attacks against Iraq and Afghanistan, they usually operate at their home bases except when on regular voyages twice a year. No carrier has aircraft on board on a routine basis.

In response to a question from Japanese Communist Party Secretariat Head Koike Akira at a House of Councilor Budget Committee meeting on March 2, the then Defense Minister Onodera Itsunori said that an offensive aircraft carrier is defined as a vessel that carries a large number of ground-attack aircraft with high fire power as well as escort fighters and warning and control aircraft. Onodera also said that because of its capabilities, this type of ship is used only for attacking enemy territories.

Onodera did not use the wording “on a routine basis” or “occasionally”. In light of the past remark that the government made in the Diet, it is obvious that an improved Izumo-class escort warship that can carry F-35Bs is an attack aircraft carrier and is therefore unconstitutional.
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