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Japan Making a Big Change to Its Military

Tokyo is getting its first aircraft carriers since WWII
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 29, 2018 6:36 AM CST
Japan's helicopter carrier Izumo sails in the waters off the Boso Peninsula, east of Tokyo. The ship will be retrofitted to carry fighter jets, according to Japanese media reports.   (Ren Onuma/Kyodo News via AP)

(Newser) – Japan is bound by its post-war constitution to put little emphasis on the military, but a major upgrade is now in the works. The nation will get its first aircraft carriers since World War II, reports the Guardian. The plan is to retrofit two existing helicopter carriers so they can be used by fighter jets, too. It dovetails with Tokyo's recent decision to buy more than 100 F-35 jets from the US, on top of 42 previously purchased. The move is likely to draw criticism that Japan is moving even further away from the pacifist aims of its constitution. As Reuters notes, the constitution technically bans the maintenance of armed forces, though it has been interpreted more liberally to allow for a military on self-defense grounds.

Japan's move is largely seen as a response to China's efforts to step up its own navy. Beijing acquired its first aircraft carrier in 2012, and it is currently building its third, reports the South China Morning Post. The Tokyo development is indeed "a major departure from Japanese postwar military policy," writes Kyle Mizokami at Popular Mechanics. But don't expect to see the carriers anytime soon. Mizokami runs down the logistics involved with the retrofitting—including the possible addition of ramps—and figures the ships won't be operational for at least five years. (Japan also is dealing with an ever-growing surplus of plutonium.)

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