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Japan conducts a joint exercise with U.S. B-52 bombers

Posted November. 20, 2017 07:26,   

Updated November. 20, 2017 08:15


Japan appears to be rushing towards fortifying its military alliance with the United States in the face of North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats. Moreover, the United States is seemingly in agreement on its ally’s becoming of a military power since it hopes that Japan plays an expanded role in security to counter rising China. Japan’s influential politicians are also making increasingly assertive comments in favor of self-armament.

The Asahi Shimbun reported Sunday that in August, the nuclear-capable B-52 bombers of the United States had traversed the Japanese islands and conducted a joint training with Japan Air Self-Defense Force fighters in the air space over the East Sea. This is the first time that U.S. B-52 bombers and Japan Air Self-Defense Force fighter jets were confirmed to have performed a combined exercise in the sea near North Korea. Yet, in line with the “Three Non-Nuclear Principles” Japan adopted that rules out the production, possession, or introduction of nuclear weapons, it was reportedly confirmed in advance that the B-52 bombers would fly without nuclear weapons loaded.

“The deployment of B-52 aircraft that can be armed with nuclear weapons has a significant political, military meaning for the North,” said an official at the Japanese government. “The government also considered an option to announce the joint drill to show the strong solidarity between Japan and the United States, but did not make it public as Washington did not want to.” The newspaper added that North Korea seemed to have not recognized the combined exercise of B-52 bombers and Japan’s fighter jets.

Meanwhile, Japan’s Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera will visit Washington and have a bilateral meeting with his U.S. counterpart James Mattis at the White House next January, according to the Sankei Shimbun on Sunday. On his way to the United States, Onodera will also stop by Hawaii to take a view of “Aegis Ashore,” a land-based version of the Aegis Combat System that Japan plans to introduce in 2023.

Young-A Soh sya@donga.com