Japan selected the Lockheed Martin F-35 stealth fighter on Tuesday to replace aging jets in its air force and bolster its defense capability amid regional uncertainty.
“Our decision on the next-generation fighters was an extremely important one for our national security, and we wanted to acquire fighters with solid capability,” Defense Minister Yasuo Ichikawa said.
The announcement came amid fresh concerns about regional stability following the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il. The impoverished North is known to be pursuing nuclear weapons, and neighbors worry about the potential fallout from political maneuvering there.
“The security environment surrounding Japan remains unstable and uncertain in many ways, and it is crucial to ensure peace and independence of our country,” Ichikawa told a news conference.
Japan is buying 42 of the aircraft under a multiyear deal. The Defense Ministry is requesting a budget of 55.1 billion yen ($706.9 million) for the first four fighters next fiscal year, which starts in April.
Source: Tomoko A. Hosaka for the Associated Press.