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HOME  > Past issues  > 2019 September 18 - 24  > In 4 years under war laws, Japan-US military cooperation further enhanced
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2019 September 18 - 24 [POLITICS]

In 4 years under war laws, Japan-US military cooperation further enhanced

September 19, 2019

Four years have passed since the war laws were forced through the Diet on September 19, 2015. Japan’s Self-Defense Forces appear to be more incorporated in the U.S. strategy confronting China which is clearly shown in the conversion of the SDF’s Izumo-class escort ships into aircraft carriers.

Japan’s Defense Ministry plans to upgrade the SDF helicopter carriers “Izumo” and “Kaga” so that F-35B stealth fighters will be able to land on and take off from the vessels. The ministry is requesting 3.1 billion yen for their upgrade in the government budget allocation for FY2020. The improvement work of Izumo is expected to start in 2020 and Kaga in 2022. When their renovation is completed, the two ships will be classified as attack aircraft carriers.

F-35Bs will be incorporated into the SDF in 2023. Until then, U.S. F-35Bs may temporarily be assigned to the Izumo and Kaga. The Defense Ministry has stated this possibility. At a House of Representatives Security Committee meeting in March, the then Defense Minister Iwaya Takeshi in response to a question from Japanese Communist Party Dietmember Miyamoto Toru said that it is possible that under the war laws, U.S. F-35Bs can fly on missions from the Izumo.

Izumo and Kaga made a voyage lasting over two months to the South China Sea and parts of the Indian Ocean in 2017 and 2018, respectively. These were part of the Abe government’s “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” strategy which is aimed at dealing with China’s growing presence in the sea area.

Izumo in the past carried out military training exercises in the South China Sea in which U.S. helicopters landed on and took off from the SDF ship. Earlier this year, Izumo conducted joint military drills with the U.S. nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan. In the future, Izumo and U.S. Marine Corps stationed in Okinawa may carry out joint military drills and U.S. Marine’s F-35Bs may make landings and takeoffs on the Izumo.

This indicates that the SDF has played an important part in the U.S. “Freedom of Navigation” operations seeking to contain China’s move to increase its military presence in the South China Sea.

Past related article:
> Abe gov’t to allow SDF to possess aircraft carrier in violation of the Constitution [December 12, 2018]
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