Japan’s government announced today that it has decided to buy the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter as its next top-of-the-line tactical aircraft, handing the stealthy plane a key endorsement in its first head-to-head competition with other fighters. The Clinton Administration conceived the F-35 as an affordable fighter that could be bought by U.S. military services and overseas allies alike, facilitating burden-sharing and coalition warfare. With Japan’s decision, neighboring South Korea is likely to follow suit, making F-35 a key part of the allied security posture in Northeast Asia. That region is now the industrial heartland of the global economy, but China’s rapidly expanding economy and recent military buildup threaten to eclipse other local powers. By purchasing a plane for which China will have no effective counter over the next few decades, Tokyo has strengthened the prospects for stable deterrence. I have written a commentary for Forbes that you can read here.
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