Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration is plotting another radical change in Japan’s postwar security policy. It is laying the political groundwork for adding an aircraft carrier to Japan’s arsenal of weapons in a reckless departure from the nation’s strictly defensive security policy.
The Maritime Self-Defense Force's Izumo helicopter carrier, the largest destroyer operated by the MSDF, which went into commission in 2015, has a long flight deck like that of an aircraft carrier and is capable of carrying and deploying many helicopters.
The ship was designed with the possibility of being converted into an aircraft carrier, which can carry fighter jets. Since March, some clear signs have emerged of a serious interest in this idea within both the government and the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.
First, Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera, speaking at the Diet, admitted that the ministry is studying the feasibility of retrofitting the Izumo so that it can land U.S. F-35B stealth fighter jets.
In April, the Defense Ministry released a report compiled by a defense contractor about a study commissioned by the ministry into the possible conversion of the Izumo into an aircraft carrier that can provide rear-area support to U.S. military operations.
As if giving a boost to the government’s move, the LDP recently called for introducing a “multipurpose aircraft carrier” in its proposals for the new National Defense Program Guidelines the government plans to draft toward the end of the year.
The ruling party has claimed that the envisioned vessel would be used for “various purposes within the boundary of ‘senshu boei,’” or nonaggressive, exclusively self-defense. But there is no doubt that it would be an aircraft carrier with highly enhanced offensive capabilities.
Possessing an aircraft carrier has been a long-held dream of the MSDF, which has inherited the traditions of the Imperial Japanese Navy.
The Defense Ministry still maintains that it is only conducting a study on the idea of converting the Izumo into an aircraft carrier without working on any specific plan to carry out the idea.
Behind the scenes, however, the ministry has been taking steady steps toward having a “moving airbase.” (end of excerpt)
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