Japan should acquire the capacity to strike an enemy’s missile sites as part of its defensive capabilities under the new National Defense Program Guidelines, defense policy panels of the Liberal Democratic Party proposed Tuesday.
The controversial proposal comes against the backdrop of growing calls among some LDP lawmakers for a more aggressive response to North Korea’s April rocket launch, which Japan considered a cover to test its ballistic missile technology, and the nuclear test in May.
The LDP will submit the proposal and other recommendations to Prime Minister Taro Aso in the hope they will be reflected in the guidelines the Cabinet is to approve in December, according to party officials.
It isn’t certain that the proposal will make it into the guidelines, given the strong reservations among some government officials and lawmakers. They say the idea could be interpreted by other countries as suggesting Japan intends to ditch the defense-only provision of the Constitution.
The 21-page paper, jointly approved by the three defense-related panels of the party’s Policy Research Council, says that while Japan maintains a ballistic missile shield within the framework of the Japan-U.S. alliance, it has to rely on the U.S. military’s offensive capability.
The paper couches the ability to attack another country’s launch sites in terms of missile defense, pointing to “progress in the technology to miniaturize nuclear warheads.”
It notes, however, that Japan should do so within its defense-only policy and by clarifying the roles Japan and the U.S. should play as allies.
The paper specifically declares that Japan “will not launch preventive, pre-emptive attacks” — a provision that was added after several panel members insisted it be clearly stated to avoid any misunderstanding abroad.
On the kind of weaponry Japan should possess, the paper suggests acquiring sea-launched cruise missiles or “ballistic-type long-range solid-fuel rockets” that would work in tandem with image-gathering and communications satellites.
Mindful of concerns that the proposal could conflict with the war-renouncing Constitution and alarm neighboring countries, the paper declares that Japan will hold fast to its defensive policy and not become a military superpower or abandon its three principles of not producing, possessing or allowing the entry of nuclear weapons.
Although Japan maintains a defense-only stance, the government takes the view that the country can strike an enemy’s military bases if a hostile missile attack appears certain.
Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada reiterated on Tuesday his reluctance to acquire an attack capability, saying that putting the idea into practice could invite a hostile response from an adversary.
“It’s natural to be cautious if you think about what would come afterward in the event that we could simply attack an enemy base,” Hamada said. “It’s easy for anyone to imagine what would come if we launched an attack.”
Several lawmakers at Tuesday’s panel meeting also expressed their reservations about the proposal. One said it would complicate relations with other countries, while another warned that this kind of policy might be the first step on the path to militarism.
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