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A group of Liberal Democratic Party lawmakers studying national security issues adopted a resolution Friday to urge the government to earmark money in the fiscal 2000 budget to buy air tankers for the Air Self-Defense Force. The resolution, which will be submitted to Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi and the Finance Ministry, claims the introduction of tanker aircraft is essential for improving the ASDF’s air patrol capability, which is a key factor in maintaining Japan’s exclusively defensive national security policy. It also maintains that air tankers would make ASDF exercises using fighter jets more efficient and help alleviate noise pollution by reducing the number of fighters taking off and landing during exercises. Although the Cabinet plans to call a Security Council meeting Tuesday to further discuss the proposed introduction, not all members of the ruling coalition seem to be behind the move. While the conservative Liberal Party strongly advocates introducing air tankers, New Komeito and some LDP lawmakers are treading warily. Some left-leaning lawmakers as well as citizens’ groups have complained that introduction of refueling planes could lead to a recurrence of the type of aggression that Japan used during the war. The Defense Agency hopes to buy at least one tanker, and possibly two, with the next fiscal year’s budget. An air tanker based on the Boeing 767, the most promising model, would cost more than 20 billion yen. In July, the LDP-led government gave up on earmarking funds for air tankers in the draft estimate of the fiscal 2000 budget because of opposition from New Komeito, which was mulling at the time over whether to join the ruling bloc.

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