Russia to move troops into new barracks on islands near Japan

Sergei Vedyashkin  Moskva News Agency

Beijing has already expressed its "strong dissatisfaction and opposition" and "urges Japan to adhere to a purely defensive policy", she added at a regular press briefing.

Visitors look at a USA stealth aircraft F-35B and F-35 Lightning II during an air show at the Japan Air Self-Defense Forces Misawa airbase in Aomori prefecture, Japan, on September 10, 2017.

Japan will accelerate spending on advanced stealth fighters, long-range missiles and other equipment over the next five years to support United States forces facing China's military in the Western Pacific, two new government defence papers said.

Japan will bolster air and sea defences amid "strong concern" about growing Chinese air and naval activity in the region, according to newly released defence guidelines.

But the move is controversial, with critics arguing it moves Tokyo further away from its commitment to strictly defensive capabilities, under Japan's post-World War II pacifist constitution.

Japanese government spokesperson Yoshihide Suga said that Tokyo had used diplomatic channels to submit a formal protest with Russian Federation and it would continue negotiations to resolve the issue and sign a peace treaty between the two countries.

"We believe this is within... what is allowed under the constitution", Suga said.

The five-year plan approved on Tuesday assumes record defence spending of 27.47 trillion yen ($244 billion) through to March 2024.

It will consist in refitting the Izumo helicopter carrier into a ship that can deploy 10 Lockheed Martin F-35B stealth fighters (the short take-off/vertical landing version of the "Lightning 2").

Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya has stressed that Japan will not label an upgraded Izumo as an "attack aircraft carrier", and that it will not pose any threat to other countries, even if fighter jets were to be deployed.

Defence officials also pointed out that Japan will stop using a final assembly and check-out (FACO) facility for the country's F-35As from FY 2019 and start buying completed F-35As and F-35Bs to reduce procurement costs.

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Local media have said the purchases could total more than one trillion yen (US$8.8 billion).

The new plans come after pledges from Japan to buy more United States military equipment, under pressure from President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly complained about Washington's huge trade deficit with Tokyo.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reviews Self-Defense Force soldiers during the military review at the Ground Self-Defense Force's Asaka training ground in Saitama prefecture, Japan, on October 14.

A US F-35B fighter jet lands aboard amphibious assault ship Wasp during an exercise in the western Pacific.

Dr Narushige Michishita from Japan's National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies told The Straits Times the upgrade will be an important step, despite limits to how the Izumo can be modified that will in turn "limit the operational radius of any fighter aircraft".

"The Izumo-class destroyers will continue to serve as multi-function, multi-purpose destroyers".

It added that the new barracks were part of the "development of military and social infrastructure" on the islands. "We have a very, very small [military] footprint" in the area between Okinawa and Taiwan, he said.

However, he also pointed out it was a "misunderstanding" to believe the upgrades would create "fully-fledged aircraft carriers" capable of long-distance operations, or that Japan would try to establish carrier air squadrons.

In this March 23, 2018, photo, US military F-35B fighter jet lands aboard amphibious assault ship Wasp during an exercise in the western Pacific.

"We are not creating carrier air wings or carrier air squadrons" like the U.S. navy, he added.

"That is not going to happen", he said.

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