New defense guidelines calling for the enhancement of capabilities to deal with security risks at sea, online and in outer space have been approved by the Cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

The new National Defense Program Guidelines were approved Dec. 18 along with the Mid-Term Defense Program, laying out Japan's defense policy and weapons purchases over the next five years.

The program estimated weapons purchases over the next five years at a record 27.4 trillion yen ($242 billion).

The main focus of both documents was the inclusion of wording that would allow for the retrofitting of an Izumo-class destroyer to give it aircraft carrier capabilities.

Underscoring the sensitivity of the issue in light of Japan's long-held stance of assuming an exclusively defensive posture for the Self-Defense Forces, the terminology for the upgraded destroyer was kept the same as in the previous document, with the updated vessel being described as "a destroyer with multifunctional capabilities."

Junior coalition partner Komeito wanted no indication in the documents that the vessel was an aircraft carrier, let alone an attack ship.

After discussions with counterparts from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, the new vessel was described as a "multi-purpose operation destroyer," in a draft document approved by the two parties. However, even that was apparently too radical a move, and the former name was adopted.

The retrofitted ship will be capable of deploying short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) aircraft. Defense Ministry officials are planning to use U.S.-made F-35B stealth fighter jets on the vessel.

The guidelines cited the increasingly rapid pace at which various uncertainties are emerging in Japan's national security environment and called for the establishment of multidimensional comprehensive defense capabilities that allow for dealing with attacks in cyberspace as well as threats in outer space and electromagnetic wave attacks.

The document stated that such activities could pose an existential threat to Japan and required maintaining superiority in the new fields.

To implement a "cross-domain strategy" that combines the SDF's three arms along with new capabilities to deal with threats in the trio of areas, the guidelines called for bolstering cyber-defense capabilities that would allow Japan to combat an enemy's abilities to use its own cyberspace. A new force would also be established to deal with threats in outer space.

While the document went on to say that there was a need to use STOVL aircraft to strengthen air defenses along the Pacific coast in a nation with a relatively low number of airports, it made clear that even after the Izumo was retrofitted, the STOVL aircraft would not be permanently based on the destroyer. Rather, they would only be called into action in the event of a military conflict or natural disaster.

Such wording was included to emphasize that the new guidelines do not divert from the traditional stance of the government to have an exclusively defense-oriented SDF.

Along with the two documents, the Cabinet on Dec. 18 also approved a plan for the Air Self-Defense Force to eventually have a total of 147 F-35s.

The ASDF is in the process of acquiring 42, with an additional 105 to be purchased from the United States. Of the new aircraft, 42 will be the F-35B STOVL aircraft, while the other 63 will be F-35As. The total cost of the additional aircraft is expected to be about 1.2 trillion yen ($10.6 billion).