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Politics

Japan plans to deploy hypersonic missiles and upgraded carrier

Draft guidelines raise eyebrows over growing offensive capabilities

The Izumo military helicopter carrier of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) . Japan has been beefing up its defense capabilities in order to counter rising threats in the region.   © Kyodo

TOKYO -- The Japanese government is looking to deploy long-range and hypersonic missiles as part of guidelines due out this month, though some critics say such equipment goes beyond the Self-Defense Forces' purely defensive mandate.

The Defense Ministry has been working on new equipment, ostensibly to defend far-flung islands, including high-speed glide missiles capable of traveling more than 300 km and hypersonic guided missiles that fly more than five times the speed of sound to evade radar networks. It also aims to develop unmanned surveillance submarines under the new guidelines. All are expected to become deployable in the mid-2020s.

There is also a proposal to retrofit its Izumo helicopter carrier into what would in effect be a full-fledged aircraft carrier -- a type of ship the country has not had since World War II. The idea is to have it carry F-35B stealth fighters, which require only a short takeoff and can land vertically. Japan wants to buy more F-35s, including F-35As already deployed domestically.

The government on Wednesday will submit a draft of the National Defense Program Guidelines and Medium-Term Defense Program to an expert panel, as well as working teams under the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and junior partner Komeito. It will reflect their feedback in the final version, which it aims to have approved by the cabinet in mid-December.

But some critics see long-range missiles and aircraft carriers as more of an offensive capability, which run counter to the war-renouncing Article 9 of Japan's constitution. The government hopes to persuade them that the new equipment will be used solely for defensive purposes.

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