Tokyo: Japan`s navy plans to add six new
submarines to its fleet, in a major boost to its defence
capability prompted by increasing military activity by
neighbouring China, according to reports on Thursday.
The defense ministry wanted the larger submarine fleet
to improve its ability to patrol particularly the East China
Sea, where territorial rows with China frequently erupt, Kyodo
News said, citing unnamed officials.
The plan would see the size of the submarine fleet
increase from the current 16 to 22, Kyodo said. Jiji Press
reported that the ministry intended to expand the fleet to
"more than 20" submarines.
The plan will be spelled out in Japan`s basic defense
programme for fiscal 2011 to 2015, which is set to be compiled
in December, Kyodo said.
The ministry plans to buy one new submarine each year
while extending the decommissioning period of existing
vessels, Kyodo said.
The ministry was considering retiring other warships
such as minesweepers, to ease the budgetary impact of the
submarine purchases, Kyodo said.
The changes would give Japan`s Maritime Self-Defense
Force, as the navy is officially known, its largest submarine
capability than at any time since the government adopted its
first defence programme in 1976, Kyodo added.
A Japanese defense official declined to comment on the
reports, but told a news agency that the ministry was planning to extend
the decommissioning period of existing submarines.
The reports come at a time of increased tension with
China over disputed islands and Beijing`s increased military
activities in the region.
The Chinese navy has increasingly been deployed to
areas near Japanese territorial waters in a show of force by
the rapidly developing Asian giant.