Japan to buy more US-made stealth jets, radar to counter China, Russia

A Marine Corps pilot prepares for a vertical landing of Lockheed Martin F-35B stealth fighter aboard the USS Wasp amphibious assault carrier during their operation in the waters off Japan's southernmost island of Okinawa March 23, 2018. (REUTERS
Updated 19 December 2018
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Japan to buy more US-made stealth jets, radar to counter China, Russia

  • “The budget is increasing and there has been an acceleration to deploy capability as soon as possible,” Robert Morrissey, head of Raytheon Co’s unit in Japan, said this month

TOKYO: Japan will accelerate spending on advanced stealth fighters, long-range missiles and other equipment over the next five years to support US forces facing China’s military in the Western Pacific, two new government defense papers said.
The plans are the clearest indication yet of Japan’s ambition to become a regional power as a military build-up by China and a resurgent Russia puts pressure on its US ally.
“The United States remains the world’s most powerful nation, but national rivalries are surfacing and we recognize the importance of the strategic competition with both China and Russia as they challenge the regional order,” said a 10-year defense program outline approved by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government on Tuesday.
The United States, followed by China, North Korea and Russia, are the countries that most influenced Japan’s latest military thinking, the paper said.
China, the world’s second biggest economy, is deploying more ships and aircraft to patrol waters near Japan, while North Korea has yet to fulfil a pledge to dismantle its nuclear and missile programs.
In Beijing, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Japan was “singing the same old tune” and making “thoughtless remarks” about China’s normal defense activities.
“What Japan is doing here is neither conducive to improving and developing China-Japan relations, nor to the broader picture of regional peace and stability,” Hua told a news briefing.
“China expresses strong dissatisfaction and opposition at this and has already lodged stern representations with Japan,” she added.
Russia, which continues to probe Japan’s air defenses, said on Monday it built new barracks for its troops on islands seized from Japan at the end of World War Two.
MORE STEALTH FIGHTERS
Japan plans to buy 45 Lockheed Martin Corp. F-35 stealth fighters, worth about $4 billion, in addition to the 42 jets already on order, according to a separate five-year procurement plan approved on Tuesday.
The new planes will include 18 short take off and vertical landing (STOVL) B variants of the F-35 that planners want to deploy on Japanese islands along the edge of the East China Sea.
The islands are part of a chain stretching past Taiwan and down to the Philippines that has marked the limit of Chinese military dominance east of the disputed South China Sea.
“Japan’s decision to acquire more F-35s is a testament to the aircraft’s transformational capability and its increasing role in promoting regional stability and enhancing the US-Japan security alliance,” Lockheed Martin said in a statement.
The navy’s two large helicopter carriers, the Izumo and Kaga, will be modified for F-35B operations, the paper said.
The 248-meter (814 ft) long Izumo-class ships are as big as any of Japan’s aircraft carriers in World War Two. They will need reinforced decks to withstand the heat blast from F-35 engines and could be fitted with ramps to aid short take-offs, two defense ministry officials told Reuters.

TRADE WAR THREAT
The new F-35 order may also help Japan avert a trade war with the United States.
US President Donald Trump, who has threatened to impose tariffs on Japanese car imports, thanked Abe for buying the F-35s when the two met at a summit in Argentina this month.
Other US-made equipment on Japan’s shopping list includes two land-based Aegis Ashore air defense radars to defend against North Korean missiles, four Boeing Co. KC-46 Pegasus refueling planes to extend the range of Japanese aircraft, and nine Northrop Grumman E-2 Hawkeye early-warning planes.
Japan plans to spend 25.5 trillion yen ($224.7 billion) on military equipment over the next five years, 6.4 percent higher than the previous five-year plan. Cost-cutting will free up another 2 trillion yen for purchases, the procurement paper said.
Japan only spends about 1 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) on defense, but the size of its economy means it already has one of the world’s largest militaries.
“The budget is increasing and there has been an acceleration to deploy capability as soon as possible,” Robert Morrissey, head of Raytheon Co’s unit in Japan, said this month.
Wary of North Korean promises to abandon ballistic missile development, Japan’s military is buying longer-range Raytheon SM-3 interceptor missiles able to strike enemy warheads in space.
The defense papers assessed non-traditional military threats as well. A new joint-forces cyber unit will bolster Japan’s defenses against cyberattacks.
More electronic warfare capabilities are planned, and the air force will get its first space unit to help keep tabs on potential adversaries high above the Earth’s atmosphere. ($1 = 113.4800 yen)


Trump blocks Pelosi trip as tensions mount over US government shutdown

Updated 5 min 36 sec ago
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Trump blocks Pelosi trip as tensions mount over US government shutdown

  • Trump has also canceled the US delegation’s trip to the annual international conference at Davos
  • The rising tension suggested that the shutdown, now in its 27th day, remains far from being resolved

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump’s conflict with Democrats over a partial US government shutdown escalated on Thursday with Trump denying House Speaker Nancy Pelosi use of military aircraft for an overseas trip in apparent retaliation for her suggestion that he delay the annual State of the Union address.
The rising tension suggested that the shutdown, now in its 27th day, remains far from being resolved.
In the meantime, the Trump administration continued to try to mitigate the shutdown’s impact. The State Department said it would call its furloughed employees back to work next week for national security reasons.
Pelosi had been scheduled to travel on a military aircraft as part of a congressional delegation to Belgium, where NATO is based, and Afghanistan to visit American troops stationed there.
In a letter to Pelosi denying her delegation the use of a plane, the Republican president called the trip an “excursion” but the Democrat’s spokesman said the trip to the Afghanistan war zone was for security and intelligence briefings.
“In light of the 800,000 great American workers not receiving pay, I am sure you would agree that postponing this public relations event is totally appropriate,” Trump wrote.
He told Pelosi she could make the trip by flying commercial.
Trump’s intervention stopped the trip just as Pelosi and other lawmakers were about to travel.
The president later canceled his own administration’s plans to attend the World Economic Forum conference in Davos, Switzerland. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had planned to attend after Trump canceled his own participation at Davos.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said that in forcing Pelosi not to travel on a US government jet, Trump had acted within his authority as commander in chief.
“He postponed her ability to use military air, which must be approved” by the Department of Defense, Sanders said.
A spokesman for Pelosi, Drew Hammill, said the trip to Brussels was intended “to affirm the United States’ ironclad commitment to the NATO alliance.”
The Afghanistan leg of the trip would have obtained “critical national security and intelligence briefings from those on the front lines,” Hammill said.
A House Democratic aide, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters that details of the trip were not supposed to be revealed for security reasons, as is customary. The White House, however, made the letter to Pelosi detailing the itinerary public.
A US defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Pelosi had requested and been granted Defense Department support for overseas travel, although the president has the authority to cancel Pelosi’s travel.
At the Capitol, members of the delegation had already boarded a bus bound for Joint Base Andrews just outside Washington, from which the plane was set to depart, when news of Trump’s decision broke.
It appeared to be a response to a letter Pelosi sent to Trump on Tuesday, suggesting he delay the annual State of the Union address to Congress, scheduled for Jan. 29, to some point after the government reopens.
Pelosi cited concerns over the capacity of the Department of Homeland Security and the Secret Service to safeguard the Capitol during the event. The agency later said it was capable of securing the venue.
Trump’s action drew criticism from one of his Republican allies in the Senate. “One sophomoric response does not deserve another,” Republican Senator Lindsey Graham wrote on Twitter.
He criticized Pelosi’s move on the State of the Union as “blatantly political” but said, “President Trump denying Speaker Pelosi military travel to visit our troops in Afghanistan, our allies in Egypt and NATO is also inappropriate.”
Democratic Representative Elaine Luria, a first-year lawmaker and a 20-year Navy veteran, had harsh words for Trump.
“The president’s comment that lawmakers visiting Afghanistan is a ‘public relations event’ is an insult to the brave men and women serving in harm’s way,” Luria said.
Also on Thursday, the State Department said it would recall its employees and take steps to pay them salaries — a departure from other agencies.
“As a national security agency, it is imperative that the Department of State carries out its mission,” Deputy Under Secretary of State Bill Todd said in a statement. “We are best positioned to do so with fully staffed embassies, consulates and domestic offices.”
Todd said the department’s employees would be paid on Feb. 14 for work performed beginning on or after this coming Sunday. The department would review its available funds and “legal authorities” beyond the upcoming pay period to try to cover future payments, he said.
About one quarter of federal agencies have been shuttered since Dec. 22, with Democratic lawmakers refusing to accede to Trump’s demands to pay for a wall along the US border with Mexico.
Trump is holding out for $5.7 billion for a border wall. Democrats, who took over the US House of Representatives this month, have rejected his demands, saying there are cheaper, more effective ways of enhancing border security.
Before leaving for the weekend, the House passed another bill that would fund the government through Feb. 28, but the vote was later vacated and held over until next week after a procedural objection from Republicans.
The Senate, however, has refused to bring any funding bill to the floor for a vote that Trump does not support.