HIROSHIMA – Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Sunday that he has “no plan” to consider granting the Self-Defense Forces permission to develop the ability to strike overseas targets, such as North Korean missile facilities.
The prime minister also said the nation’s defense guidelines need to be reviewed to reflect North Korea’s development of intercontinental ballistic missiles, as well as other changes in the security environment.
Abe’s remark on the SDF acquiring the capability to strike overseas targets came after newly appointed Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said Friday the government “should consider” the option of knocking out North Korean ballistic missile launch sites.
“We are relying on the United States for strike ability within the Japan-U.S. division of roles,” Abe told a news conference in Hiroshima. “I have no plan to specifically consider (the issue) at this time.”
Abe has instructed Onodera, following a Cabinet reshuffle last week, to re-examine the defense program guidelines, which were approved by the Cabinet in December 2013. The guidelines have set targets for the defense capabilities the country should achieve over the decade through 2023.
But North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles has advanced rapidly since then. The country carried out its first test-firing of an ICBM on July 4 and launched another ICBM on July 28. Both landed in the Sea of Japan, and no injuries were reported.
“We need to conduct a ceaseless review (of the guidelines) from the perspective of how our defense capabilities should be,” Abe said, adding that issues such as defending Japanese islands and boosting missile defense capabilities would be subject to the review.
He also said the government needs to start considering the content of the next medium-term defense buildup plan, containing specific targets for defense equipment and funding. The current plan covers the five-year period through March 2019.
Abe’s news conference followed his attendance at a ceremony in Hiroshima to commemorate the 72nd anniversary of the U.S. atomic bombing in World War II.
The prime minister said he feels there is no need to put Japan’s three non-nuclear principles — not producing, possessing or allowing nuclear weapons on Japanese territory — into law.
“Under our unwavering resolve that the horrors of nuclear weapons must never be repeated, Japan will continue to firmly maintain the three non-nuclear principles as a matter of national policy, so there is no need to enshrine them again in law,” he said.