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 Russian Federation puts pressure on its US ally.
Strengthening the U.S. -Japan alliance is more important than ever for Japan's national security as challenges with China, cybersecurity and elsewhere continue to evolve, according to new defense guidelines approved Tuesday by the Cabinet.
Russian Federation said yesterday it had built new barracks for troops on a disputed chain of islands near Japan and would build more facilities for armoured vehicles, prompting a diplomatic protest from Tokyo.
Japan said it had "strong concerns" about the expansion of China's military footprint on Tuesday, prompting China's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying to accuse Japan of making "thoughtless remarks".
"Japan needs better deterrence and increased missile defence and fighter capability as North Korea's missile and nuclear threats remains unchanged in the absence of concrete steps to dismantle them, and China's maritime activity has grown increasingly assertive", the news daily reported.
On the Izumo refurbishment, Hua said Japan's Asian neighbors and the global community are very interested in the country's defense development in light of history.
But the MTDP provided more details, particularly that Japan plans to acquire 45 F-35s, including 18 "B" models over the next five years, with the remainder of Japan's F-35 force being the F-35A conventional takeoff and landing variant.
The country will retrofit two existing helicopter carriers so they can launch state-of-the-art stealth fighter jets made in the US. The ships 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.
Japan's government also announced Tuesday that it will, over the next decade, buy 42 such fighter jets, with the F35B widely considered the likeliest candidate.
South Korean media have expressed caution about the Japanese plans.
The five-year plan approved Tuesday assumes record defense spending of 27.47 trillion yen ($242 billion) through March 2024.
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.
Russia's Defence Ministry said yesterday it wanted troops and their families to move on Dec 25 into two new housing sites on the island of Iturup (Etorofu in Japan), and into two other complexes on the island of Kunashir (Kunashiri in Japan).
Wary of North Korean promises to abandon ballistic missile development, Japan's military is buying longer-range Raytheon SM-3 interceptor missiles to strike enemy warheads in space. A new joint-forces cyber unit will bolster Japan's defenses against cyberattacks.
Under the MTDP, The P-1s would be joined by a more modest increase in airlift capabilities, including three more Kawasaki C-2 airlifters and a similar number of CH-47JA Chinook heavy-lift helicopters, which are locally assembled by Kawasaki under licence from Boeing.