A Japanese flag waves in the breeze as Marines attend a ceremony at Camp Courtney’s parade grounds on Okinawa, March 7, 2023.

A Japanese flag waves in the breeze as Marines attend a ceremony at Camp Courtney’s parade grounds on Okinawa, March 7, 2023. (Frank Andrews/Stars and Stripes)

Japan is increasing its ammunition storage capacity with plans for 130 new depots as it moves to acquire missiles capable of striking enemy bases.

The depots will be built on Self-Defense Force facilities, a spokesman for the Ministry of Defense said by email Thursday. It’s customary in Japan for some government officials to speak to the media on condition of anonymity.

The depots will be in addition to about 1,400 facilities already in operation throughout Japan, the spokesperson said, while declining to state the type or amount of ammunition that will be stored in them.

Japan has moved to strengthen its military in recent years amid a rapid Chinese military buildup and North Korean missile tests.

The country is spending a record amount on defense — $51.4 billion this fiscal year, which started in April — and plans to acquire 400 Tomahawk missiles to develop counterstrike capabilities.

“The National Defense Strategy and Defense Buildup Program calls for possession of necessary ammunition as early as possible since there is a need to secure and maintain sufficient war-fighting capabilities,” the ministry’s spokesperson said.

Defense officials have requested about $148 million in the fiscal 2024 budget to pay for the new depots, according to the spokesperson.

During that time period design work will start for depots at Camp Ebino in Miyazaki prefecture on the southern island of Kyushu and five depots at the Okinawa Training Area. The ministry also plans to acquire land for three depots at bases in Kagoshima prefecture, also on Kyushu, the spokesperson said.

The ministry hopes to survey six facilities where depots could be built on Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido, the spokesperson said.

The ministry is also working to improve ammunition production capability, the spokesperson said.

Stars and Stripes reporter Seth Robson contributed to this report.

author picture
Hana Kusumoto is a reporter/translator who has been covering local authorities in Japan since 2002. She was born in Nagoya, Japan, and lived in Australia and Illinois growing up. She holds a journalism degree from Boston University and previously worked for the Christian Science Monitor’s Tokyo bureau.

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