Japan will get its first aircraft carriers since World War II and buy dozens of fighter jets under a new defence plan approved yesterday that is intended to counter China's growing military power.
The new five-year defence plan calls for the upgrade of two existing helicopter carriers so that they can launch fighters, and is the latest in a series of steps under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to boost Japan's military.
Abe's government argues the efforts are necessary given growing defence challenges in the region, including tensions with North Korea, and particularly "strong concerns" about the expansion of China's military footprint. But the move is controversial, with critics arguing it shifts Tokyo further away from its commitment to strictly defensive capabilities under Japan's post-World War II pacifist constitution.
The five-year plan approved yesterday assumes record defence spending of 27.47 trillion yen ($244 billion) through March 2024.
In a separate plan also endorsed by the cabinet, Japan said it would buy 42 F-35s over the next decade, with the F-35B variant widely considered the likeliest candidate. It also plans over the same period to buy 105 F-35As, a variant of the advanced jet which performs conventional takeoffs.