Japan won’t express intention to gain ability to strike missile sites, source says

Kyodo

Japan does not plan to mention, in revised guidelines on defense cooperation with the United States, the goal of acquiring the ability to attack enemy ballistic missile launch sites, a Tokyo government source said Sunday.

The United States has urged Japan to tread carefully on the matter, out of concern such a declaration could unnerve Japan’s neighbors, especially China and South Korea, where the memories of Japanese aggression and colonization are still raw.

Tokyo will continue to take the stance that the matter requires further consideration, according to the source.

In April, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expressed eagerness to seek the capability to attack sites in an enemy country used to launch ballistic missiles at Japan.

Abe told a Diet session he would consider acquiring that capability to “strengthen the deterrence and countermeasure capabilities of our own country” in a bid to fortify the deterrence provided by the Japan-U.S. alliance.

But the U.S. side communicated to the Japanese side during bilateral meetings that it cannot fully approve of Tokyo’s plan to mention it in the bilateral guidelines out of fear that doing so could raise tensions between Japan and its neighbors, according to the source.

In hope of leaving room to consider acquiring that attack capability, Japanese officials are discussing with U.S. officials inserting into the guidelines a passage similar to the one included in Japan’s new national defense guidelines adopted last year. It says, “Japan will pursue comprehensive improvement of its response capability against the threat of ballistic missiles.”

Currently, Japan relies on the United States for such a strike capability. New Komeito, the junior coalition partner of Abe’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party, is reluctant about acquiring a strike capability from the viewpoint of Japan maintaining an exclusively defensive posture.

The guidelines, which were compiled in 1978 and then revised in 1997, detail the roles of the U.S. military and the Self-Defense Forces in the event of an emergency.

Japan and the United States seek to complete their review of the guidelines by year’s end. An interim report on the revision is likely to be announced soon, possibly this month.