Japan has deployed the first of its ten US-made F-35A stealth fighter jets at an airbase in the country’s northern regions as tensions continue over Pyongyang’s missile testing.
“The deployment of the high-performance F-35 aircraft is significant for Japan’s security at a time when neighboring countries have been quickly building up their air force capabilities in recent years,” said Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera on Saturday.
According to Japanese media, the country plans to deploy the remaining nine planes by the end of April.
Japan’s Air Self-Defense Force has plans to purchase a total of 42 of the US-made radar defying aircraft to replace its fleet of F-4s.
Tokyo will also purchase long-range JSM missiles, which Onodera said will only be used for defense operations.
“The introduction of the missiles is not aimed at targeting enemy military bases. We rely on US strike capabilities for attacking enemy bases and this will remain unchanged,” he said.
North Korea regularly issues threats about nuking Japan and the US. Tensions have been high in the region following the North’s Korea’s nuclear test in September, and its November claims over successfully testing an intercontinental ballistic missile.