Japan will add refueling planes and expand its fleet of high-speed warships to boost the security of its remote islands, the Yomiuri newspaper said, as the nation squares off with China over islands that both sides claim.
Japan will at least double the number of refueling planes from the current four so aircraft can stay in the air longer while patrolling around distant islands, the newspaper said. It also plans to introduce smaller warships that can maneuver better, the Yomiuri said, without saying where it got the information.
The changes, which the Yomiuri said will be included in a new 10-year defense plan to be announced next month, reflect a broader strategic shift by Japan as China expands its military power and the two nations challenge each other over the East China Sea islands, called Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe increased the defense budget in 2013 for the first time in 11 years.
The Defense Ministry wants another budget increase for next year, a move that would return military spending to its highest level since 2005. Abe also wants to reinterpret the country’s pacifist constitution to allow Japan to defend allies and has further loosened restrictions on arms exports.
Japan plans to boost the number of Aegis ballistic missile defense ships in its fleet to eight from six, the paper said. In a separate report, the Mainichi newspaper said Japan would cut the number of tanks from 740 to 300 over the next decade, while introducing 200 light combat vehicles by 2023.
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