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Editorial: Effectively develop nation’s defense capabilities under Japan-U.S. alliance

To respond to the severe national security environment in East Asia, the Self-Defense Forces must strengthen their equipment and capabilities. The government has to effectively develop defense capabilities while maintaining a strong alliance with the United States.


Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. President Donald Trump boarded the Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyer Kaga at the MSDF’s Yokosuka Base. It was the first time that a U.S. president boarded an SDF vessel.


The United States’ deterrence is vital to protect Japan’s safety. It was significant to demonstrate the unity of the alliance in and outside the nation.


The government plans to remodel two destroyers — the Kaga and the same-class Izumo — to operate U.S.-made F-35 stealth fighters. “It will further contribute to the peace and stability of the region,” Abe said, highlighting the importance of the remodeling in his address aboard the Kaga.


China is building up its aircraft carriers, submarines and other equipment. Improving defense for the Nansei Islands is a heavy task. It is understandable that the government aims at enhancing the SDF’s mobility around remote islands.


Japan will introduce nearly 150 F-35s. They are highly expensive equipment, with a price tag of more than ¥10 billion per aircraft. Keeping the severe fiscal situation in mind, the Defense Ministry has to steadily implement procurement reforms and put effort into reducing costs.


Make spending transparent


Trump’s assertion that Japan’s equipment purchase would lead to shrinking the U.S. trade deficit with Japan is regrettable. National security policies must be viewed separately from trade issues. Efforts to contribute to improving the effectiveness of deterrence and joint operations are indispensable.


In order to enhance defense against ballistic missiles, the government will deploy the land-based interception system Aegis Ashore in Akita and Yamaguchi prefectures.


Not only North Korea, but also China and Russia are developing various types of missiles. The monitoring capabilities of the MSDF’s Aegis ships are apparently limited. It is important to introduce a system equipped with state-of-the-art radars to be able to respond to simultaneous attacks involving multiple missiles.


The cost of introduction and maintenance of the U.S.-developed Aegis Ashore will total more than ¥400 billion over 30 years.


The costs of procurement tend to soar under the U.S. “Foreign Military Sales” program for state-of-the-art equipment, designed for the U.S. side to take the initiative in setting prices and delivery schedules. Securing the program’s transparency can be expected to lead to greater public acceptance.


The government is urged to proceed appropriately with procurement of defense equipment in accordance with the Medium Term Defense Program.


Negotiations to review expenses for U.S. forces stationed in Japan will get into full swing next year. There is a possibility that the U.S. government will demand an increase in Japan’s burdens. Japan must tenaciously argue that it already bears enough of an expense burden for stationing troops compared with other U.S. allies.


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