F-22 de­lay

The Washington Times Weekly - - National -

Pro-China of­fi­cials in the White House and Pen­tagon are qui­etly un­der­min­ing Ja­pan’s re­quest to buy 50 ad­vanced F-22 jet fighter-bombers, to avoid up­set­ting Bei­jing’s gov­ern­ment, ac­cord­ing to U.S. of­fi­cials familiar with the dis­pute.

Ja­pan’s De­fense Min­is­ter Fu­mio Kyuma made a for­mal re­quest to De­fense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates ear­lier this month for clas­si­fied tech­ni­cal data on the jet, as a first step to­ward a pur­chase.

The Ja­panese view the ad­vanced war­plane as a key el­e­ment of a mil­i­tary mod­ern­iza­tion needed to counter cur­rent mis­sile threats from North Korea and a longer-term threat from China.

Air Force of­fi­cials and de­fense in­dus­try of­fi­cials, how­ever, said of­fi­cials at the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil and within the of­fice of the sec­re­tary of de­fense are op­pos­ing the sale, and plan to de­lay act­ing on Ja­pan’s re­quest un­til af­ter a Septem­ber dead­line, when Tokyo will then be forced to look for other jets to up­grade its ag­ing air­craft arse­nal.

Den­nis Wilder, the NSC staff China spe­cial­ist, de­clined to en­dorse the F-22 for Ja­pan days be­fore Ja­panese Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe first raised the sale with Pres­i­dent Bush at the White House. Mr. Wilder told re­porters at the time it was an “open ques­tion” to be left for ex­perts on the type of U.S. air­craft sold to Ja­pan.

China op­poses F-22 sales since the ul­tra-mod­ern fighter-bomber can carry large num­bers of pre­ci­sion guided bombs, can hit tar­gets at long ranges, and has an­ti­radar stealth that can evade all of China’s air de­fenses.

Both the Air Force and the F-22 man­u­fac­turer, Lock­heed Martin Corp., fa­vor build­ing an ex­port ver­sion of the F-22 to re­duce unit costs, now es­ti­mated to be around $150 mil­lion per jet, and to bol­ster the al­liance with Ja­pan. South Korea, Aus­tralia and Is­rael also are in­ter­ested in buy­ing the F-22.

Congress will first need to change leg­is­la­tion to per­mit for­eign sales, but the ad­min­is­tra­tion so far has not taken any steps to seek a lift­ing of the ban.

The F-22 ex­port is a ma­jor test of U.S. sup­port for Ja­pan and is be­ing watched closely by Ja­panese gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials who are wor­ried Wash­ing­ton will not back Tokyo and in­stead kow-tow to Bei­jing on the sale.

A Pen­tagon spokes­men said U.S. law pro­hibits sales of F-22s abroad. A White House spokesman had no im­me­di­ate com­ment.

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