Japan’s government is continuing to press the Bush administration to find a way to help Tokyo upgrade its air force with a new jet fighter, requesting the Air Force’s latest stealth fighter, the F-22.
A senior Japanese government official said that while there is no deadline, “we need to decide on our next fighter to replace the senile” jets in the Air Self-Defense Force.
“We would like to explore several possibilities before it’s too late at any rate, and the F-22 is certainly what we would like to look into,” the official said.
Current U.S. law bans the Japanese from even investigating the purchase as a result of the amendment to a defense bill that prohibits export of the F-22. Yet the Bush administration has done nothing to seek a change in the law that would allow it, something the Air Force favors because an export version would lower unit costs.
The official said the F-22, which can easily penetrate air defenses in China or North Korea, could be deployed solely by the U.S. in Asia, which was done recently on a temporary mission.
“On the other hand, the U.S. already provided the Aegis to us, and I don’t see much sense in keeping another military secret from a major ally,” the official said, noting that the recent leak of Aegis secrets from the Maritime Self-Defense Forces sailor could be a problem.
The official said Japan is not worried by China’s opposition to the sale of F-22s. However, China’s recent appointment of new Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, a former interpreter who was dubbed “Tiger Yang” by former President George Bush, may be an effort by Beijing to head off any F-22 sale to Japan and promote other issues China views as important.