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Offensive or Defensive: The Debate over Japans Aircraft Carrier Upgrade

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Document pages: 17 pages

Abstract: The current controversy over Japan’s stated aim of converting the two Izumo-class destroyers into aircraft carriers focuses renewed attention on an old question: can weapons of war ever be considered purely offensive? Most commentary and analyses on the military posture of a state is typically a performance in gauging the offensive defensive balance of its armed forces. This is more often than not carried out by thinking of equipment or capabilities as inherently defensive or offensive. We make the argument that weapons are only practically offensive when their end-users – soldiers, sailors and aviators – develop and test doctrine to use them in an offensive manner, and when the state possessing the weapon also acquires the corresponding requisite infrastructure in order to pursue an offensively orientated strategy. Neither criterion is met by recent developments in Japan, nor is this likely to change in foreseeable future. This is particularly the case with aircraft carriers.

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