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To acquire the capability to strike foreign military bases or not? Shortly before leaving office in September, former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the government would “set an appropriate path” on the issue by the end of 2020.

That now looks unlikely to happen. Kyodo reports sources as saying that the government will keep talking about the contentious potential change — which is opposed by junior ruling coalition partner Komeito — but drop the deadline.

Regardless, the Cabinet is expected to approve a plan next week to build two naval vessels equipped with Aegis missile interceptors to defend against the threat of North Korean attacks. The plan will reportedly include a reference to ongoing discussions on “strengthening deterrence” without mentioning the acquisition of strike capabilities.

The Air Self-Defense Force conducts a drill to deploy Patriot Advanced Capability-3 ballistic missile interceptors in Itami, Hyogo Prefecture, on March 5, three days after North Korea launched two projectiles. | KYODO
The Air Self-Defense Force conducts a drill to deploy Patriot Advanced Capability-3 ballistic missile interceptors in Itami, Hyogo Prefecture, on March 5, three days after North Korea launched two projectiles. | KYODO

Meanwhile, Japan has reportedly decided to develop a successor to its aging F-2 fighter jet jointly with both the U.S. and Britain. By partnering with the two countries instead of the usual one (i.e., the U.S.), Japan hopes to keep one country from exercising excessive influence on the program while ensuring interoperability, reliability and cost efficiency, government sources tell Kyodo.

In October, Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi said Japan had picked Mitsubishi Heavy Industries as the main contractor to develop the next-generation stealth fighter. The fighters, currently known as F-X, are part of Japan’s upgrading of its aging fighter jet fleet to counter growing threats from China and North Korea.

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