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Japan's navy to add six submarines to fleet: reports


An unrelated photo of a Japanese submarine

TOKYO (AFP): 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.

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 Thursday, 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 AFP 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.

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Japan  Submarines  

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