A ruling party committee yesterday approved a proposal for Japan to acquire capabilities to halt ballistic missile attacks within enemy territory, bringing the nation a step closer to acquiring weapons able to strike North Korea.
Giving long range munitions to the Japan Self-Defense Force is a controversial issue for a nation that renounced the right to wage war after its defeat in World War II. The proposal could also anger China and Russia, which could fall within range of any new strike weapons.
“The nation needs to consider ways to strengthen deterrence, including having the capability to halt ballistic missile attacks within the territory of our adversaries,” the proposal says.
The proposal, crafted by senior Liberal Democratic Party lawmakers, including former Japanese minister of defense Itsunori Onodera, is to be presented to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as early as next week.
The proposal “is to stay within the bounds of the constitution and to comply with international law, that has not changed,” Onodera said at a news conference following the committee meeting.
The recommendations are to be discussed by the Japanese National Security Council, which is expected to finalize new defense policies by the end of September.
Abe has pushed for a stronger military, arguing that Japan needs to respond to a deteriorating security environment in East Asia, as North Korea builds up its missiles and nuclear weapons, China builds a modern, powerful military, and Russian forces re-engage in the region.
A strike option is attractive because it is much easier to hit missiles on launch pads rather than when they are traveling at several times the speed of sound.
However, finding mobile launchers to hit requires close surveillance with satellites that Japan does not possess, meaning it would have to rely on help from the US.
The deliberations were prompted by Japanese Minister of Defense Taro Kano’s decision last month to cancel two planned Aegis Ashore sites, designed to track and target incoming ballistic missiles from North Korea, citing a risk posed to nearby residents from falling booster rockets and rising costs.
The proposal included a recommendation that Japan consider how to acquire a defense radar system on a par with Lockheed Martin’s Aegis Ashore system that could also track other threats, such as drones and cruise missiles.
Among the proposals being considered is the Aegis Ashore system at other ground sites, or putting new powerful radar on ships.
US company Raytheon has been lobbying Japanese lawmakers to choose its SPY-6 radar rather than using Lockheed Martin’s system, sources said.
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