Onodera says Japan may buy more F-35s 'if price comes down'

Onodera was given a tour of Lockheed Martin's F-35 facility in Fort Worth on 8 July. Source: PA

Onodera says Japan may buy more F-35s 'if price comes down'

Kosuke Takahashi, Tokyo and James Hardy, London - IHS Jane's Defence Weekly

09 July 2014

Japanese Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera on 8 July said Tokyo will consider buying additional Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters should the cost of the aircraft come down.

"If each country expands manufacturing capability [of F-35s] and increases production volume, this leads to the reduction of the unit cost," Onodera told reporters after visiting Lockheed Martin's fighter production plant in Fort Worth, Texas. "In such a case, it's important to think twice about the total volume."

National broadcaster NHK reported that Onodera was told by Lockheed Martin officials that the company will begin assembling the first F-35s for Japan in August.

The Japan Air Self-Defense Force plans to acquire 42 F-35A conventional take-off and landing variants of the aircraft. The Japanese Ministry of Defence (MoD) has already reached an agreement with Lockheed Martin to buy six F-35As and JPY63.8 billion (USD627.2 million) was earmarked for the purchase of four F-35 jets this fiscal year.

Meanwhile, a senior MoD official has told IHS Jane's that some of the six Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force and four US Navy P-3C aircraft damaged in February when a facility roof collapsed during heavy snow were unrecoverable.

A senior official at Kawasaki Heavy Industries confirmed to IHS Jane's on 9 July that some of the aircraft were severely damaged, with some wings broken off.

"We can't take out the aircraft from the broken hanger yet," the official said. "We will start that work in autumn. After that, the relevant parties will make the final judgment on which aircraft can be still recovered. Even if some aircraft are recoverable, it is another question on whether we actually restore them or not. Some of these P-3Cs may be old enough to retire."


Onodera's comments on the F-35 are a small ray of light during a bad week for the aircraft, which has been grounded following a 23 June fire aboard an F-35A at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida. The F-35A and the carrier variant C-model had previously been temporarily suspended from conducting flight operations over safety concerns, while it remains unclear whether F-35Bs will be able to travel to airshows in the UK as planned.

Meanwhile, on 8 July the Pentagon's Joint Program Office (JPO) overseeing the F-35 acquisition said it had "temporarily suspended" negotiations for the next lot of aircraft and engines.

"Negotiations will resume once the scope of the engine issue and downstream effects are known," JPO spokesperson Kyra Hawn told IHS Jane's . "The JPO would not close the deal with this issue outstanding and any subsequent fixes unresolved."

Despite these issues and the negative publicity arising from an F-35 no-show at the 2014 Farnborough Airshow, the aircraft's existing customers - such as Japan - appear to be happy with the programme's progress so far. One possible reason for this is that the F-35 is the only show in town and has rock solid support from the US Congress, suggesting it will not be cancelled anytime soon.

posted by Kosuke at 23:40| Comment(0) | Jane's Defence Weekly

Japan sees big increase in Russian air activity


Japan sees big increase in Russian air activity

Kosuke Takahashi, Tokyo and James Hardy, London - IHS Jane's Defence Weekly

08 July 2014

The number of intercepts of Russian aircraft by the Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) increased by nearly eight times from April to June 2014 compared with the same period in 2013.

The Joint Staff Office (JSO) of the Ministry of Defence (MoD) announced on 9 July that JASDF aircraft had scrambled to intercept Russian aircraft 235 times in April to June, up from 31 times during the same period in 2013.

The JSO statement said that starting on 13 April, Japan had to scramble jets against Russian aircraft such as the Il-20M multi-sensor reconnaissance aircraft and the Tupolov Tu-95 'Bear' strategic bomber for seven consecutive days.

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posted by Kosuke at 22:32| Comment(0) | Jane's Defence Weekly


Who is So Tae Ha, head of the Japanese abductions investigation?

Here is my latest story in NK News. Mike Madden, who operates North Korea Leadership Watch, said that So Tae Ha, the chairperson of the special investigation committee, is in this photo somewhere.@

timthumb (1).jpg
Former DPRK leader, the late Kim Jong Il, takes part in a tour in May 2009 with Jang Song Taek, Kim Ki Nam, Ri Jae Il, MSS Senior (1st) Vice Minister Gen. U Tong Chuk and former MSS Vice Minister Ryu Kyong. KCNA

Who is So Tae Ha, head of the Japanese abductions investigation?

Vice ministerfs actual role remains unclear, but may be close confidant to Kim Jong Un

July 7th, 2014

Kosuke Takahashi

North Korea announced on Friday that it launched gthe special investigation committeeh to look into the fate of Japanese abductees and other missing people in the North decades ago.

Masked in mystery, one man became the immediate focus of the Japanese intelligence community. That is So Tae Ha, chairman of the special investigation committee. Experts are now trying to figure out his true identity.

Sofs official titles, announced by Pyongyang, are counselor for security at the National Defense Commission (NDC) and vice-minister of the Ministry of State Security (MSS).

The NDC is North Koreafs highest authority and supreme decision-making body. Currently, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is first chairman of the NDC.

The MSS, on the other hand, is a secret police force, or Pyongyangfs equivalent of the KGB. Kim is believed to have the MSS under his direct rule, just as his father Kim Jong Il did by concurrently serving as the head of the MSS for a long time. The MSS is believed to know the whereabouts of all of Japanese abductees as well as the Japanese wives who went to North Korea with their Korean husbands decades ago.

eThe committeefs members are very substantial members of the countryfs national security community, despite having what would seem to outside observers very mid-level jobsf

In 2004 when Pyongyang conducted a reinvestigation into Japanese abductees such as Megumi Yokota, who was kidnapped by North Korean agents in 1977 at the age of 13, the investigation committee was led by the Ministry of Peoplefs Security (MPS), a police organ, but not by the NDC or the MSS. For this reason, North Korea has claimed there were limits on its ability to conduct a thorough investigation into the abductions, which had involved North Koreafs special agencies.

Lee Young-hwa, economics professor at Kansai University in Osaka, told NK News on Monday that several organizations in the Workersf Party of Korea, such as the Operations Department in charge of espionage operations against South Korea, had actually carried out the kidnappings of Japanese.

This time, Pyongyang said the special investigations committee was invested with a gspecial mandateh by the NDC to ginvestigate all institutions and mobilize relevant institutions and persons concerned for the investigation any time necessary.h

Pyongyang also said the committee will be staffed with about 30 officials from relevant institutions including the MSS, the MPS, the Ministry of the Peoplefs Armed Forces and so on, supported by MSS Councilor Kim Myong Chol and MPS Department Director Pak Yong Sik.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said last Thursday that the involvement of North Koreafs national decision-making bodies like the NDC and the MSS in an investigation into Japanese abductees was a decisive factor in his decision to lift some sanctions on Pyongyang.

gThe committeefs members are very substantial members of the countryfs national security community, despite having what would seem to outside observers very mid-level jobs,h said Michael Madden, who operates North Korea Leadership Watch. gBased on some conversations Ifve had with someone tied to the committeefs establishment they will have a lot of power but there is not a very clear idea whether what they turn up will satisfy the Prime Minister Abe.h

Madden said So is a lieutenant general from the Korean Peoplefs Army (KPA) and that he was one of the officials who replaced Ryu Kyong, who had been dismissed as vice minister of the MSS and executed in 2011. Ryu had been well-known as gMr. Xh in Japan, acting as negotiator with then-chief of the Ministry of Foreign Affairsf Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau Hitoshi Tanaka at the 2002 Japan-North Korea summit, where then-Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and Kim Jong Il first met in Pyongyang.


Although all vice ministers and vice directors have a specific portfolio such as organization, liaison or inspections, Sofs current portfolio is still unclear.

Madden even said that So may not formally be a vice minister, and that it may be just a job title used externally in the media or during diplomatic exchanges, not reflecting his real position. Like other State Security personnel he has a KPA military rank, but he doesnft sit in the chain of command of the KPA General Staff or Ministry of the Peoplefs Armed Forces, Madden said.

At a press conference last Thursday, Japanfs Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga also said that Sofs title as counselor for security at the NDC was gcreated out of necessity in order to name him as chairman of the Special Investigative Committee.h He said g(So) will be in charge of the countryfs security issues at a vice minister level.h

Madden also pointed out that So is one of approximately eight NDC councilors, which is a powerful position usually held concurrent with another job. He is most likely part of a group of senior officials who are members of what are sometimes called sangmujo, which First Secretary Kim Jong Un inherited from his father Secretary General Kim Jong Il.


e(So) had penetrating eyes. He had power in his eyesf

Kenji Fujimoto: Kosuke Takahashi

Among Japanese citizens, there is one man who has actually met So Tae Ha. It is Kenji Fujimoto, who worked as Kim Jong Ilfs personal sushi chef and was Kim Jong Unfs childhood friend. On Sunday Fujimoto told NK News he met So in 1995 at Mokrangwan, a guest house in the center of Pyongyang.

Two hours into the party, attended by several dozen party executives, Kim Jong Il ordered the head of the secretarial office to bring in other senior party members immediately.

gIt was past nine ofclock,h he said. gThere or four people came to the party. Among them was So Tae Ha.h

Fujimoto said his translator had identified So for him.

gThe translator said, eHe is from the secret police and he is quite a go-getter or hotshot. He will succeed in the future for sure,fh Fujimoto said.

gHe was around 50 at that time. He had penetrating eyes. He had power in his eyes.h

Fujimoto spent 1989 to 2001 as Kim Jong Ilfs sushi chef, and was abruptly invited back to the North in 2012, not long after his former bossf death and Kim Jong Unfs ascension to supreme leader of North Korea. Fujimoto believes So is gdefinitelyh Kim Jong Unfs closest confidant now.

gI now suspect So advised him to issue the NDCfs invitation letter for me in 2012, when I first hesitated to go to Pyongyang despite Mr. Kim Jong Unfs invitation,h he said.
posted by Kosuke at 22:30| Comment(0) | NK News