Tokyo and Washington are exploring the possibility of Japan acquiring offensive weapons that would allow it to project power far beyond its borders, Japanese officials said, a move likely to infuriate China.

While Japan's intensifying rivalry with China dominates the headlines, Tokyo's focus would be the ability to take out North Korean missile bases, according to three Japanese officials involved in the process.

They said Tokyo was holding the informal, previously undisclosed talks with Washington about capabilities that would mark a distinct enhancement of military might for a country that has not fired a shot in anger since its defeat in World War II.