The Defense Ministry will request additional funding in the next fiscal year's budget to procure long-range cruise missiles for fighter jets, Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said Friday.
Onodera denied that the new acquisitions will constitute a shift in Japan's strictly defense-oriented policy, under which the Self-Defense Forces do not possess the capability to strike other countries' territory.
"Our way of thinking has not changed at all," Onodera said, stressing that Japan leaves strike capability to its defense ally, the United States.
The ministry requested a record-high budget for fiscal 2018 in August, seeking to counter the threat from North Korea's ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programs.
While the nation's postwar Constitution renounces war and the maintenance of "war potential," the government claims that strike capability is allowed under the supreme law so long as it can be considered a self-defense measure.
The missiles in question are the JSM by Norway's Kongsberg Defense & Aerospace, with a range of about 500 km, and Lockheed Martin Corp.'s JASSM-ER and LRASM missiles, which each have a roughly 900-km range.
The JSM will be mounted on Air Self-Defense Force F-35 stealth fighters and the JASSM-ER and LRASM will be surveyed for possible mounting on F-15 fighters.
Onodera said the missiles will be used to defend Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyers equipped with the Aegis missile defense system.
He also suggested they could be used in island defense, "dealing with enemy surface forces or landing forces before they get close."
Onodera said the ministry left the cruise missiles out of its initial funding request in August because it had not yet finalized arrangements with the developers.