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Converted Izumo carriers to not operate fighters in 'normal times': defense minister

YOKOSUKA, Kanagawa -- The Maritime Self-Defense Force (MSDF)'s Izumo-class helicopter carriers will "not operate fighters during normal times," even after their effective conversion to aircraft carriers, Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya stated here on Dec. 19.

Iwaya made the comment after touring the Izumo helicopter carrier at the MSDF's Yokosuka base in Kanagawa Prefecture, south of Tokyo. The visit came a day after the Cabinet approved new defense guidelines and the next five-year midterm defense buildup program, which included converting the Izumo-class vessels effectively into aircraft carriers. It also specified the acquisition of stealth F-35B short takeoff and vertical landing fighter planes, which can be operated from carriers.

The conversion plan has faced questions over whether the ships would constitute "attack carriers." Critics have pointed out that this would violate the Japanese Constitution's prohibition on maintaining any "war potential." However, the Izumo ships "will not operate fighters during normal times. They will not threaten other countries or cause uneasiness," Iwaya explained.

(Japanese original by Noriaki Kinoshita, Political News Department)

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