• Kyodo

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The ruling Liberal Democratic Party plans to urge the government to develop the ability to strike enemy missile bases amid North Korean nuclear and missile threats, a draft outline of a party proposal on security issues showed Thursday.

The LDP is hoping to finalize the proposal by May so that it will be reflected in the country’s defense buildup guidelines to be reviewed at the end of the year.

According to the draft, the LDP said Japan must beef up its defense to counter “the most critical situation” since the end of World War II, citing North Korean threats, China’s maritime assertiveness and Russia’s military buildup on disputed islands off Hokkaido.

Many lawmakers have increasingly seen the need to reinforce Japan’s defense against ballistic missiles, with North Korea repeatedly test-firing them and improving its ability to conduct surprise attacks through the use of mobile launchers.

The government maintains the position that having strike capability is theoretically possible under the war-renouncing Constitution if it can be considered a measure of self-defense. But whether it can actually possess the capability remains a politically sensitive issue.

The Defense Ministry announced a plan in December to introduce long-range cruise missiles mounted on fighter jets, while denying any intention to possess the ability to strike foreign military bases.

The missiles potentially have the range to reach North Korean missile launchers or other targets when fired from fighter jets flying near Japan.

The draft proposal also stressed the need to enhance defense capabilities in space and cyberspace, while calling for an upgrade of the helicopter carrier Izumo so that it can be used as an aircraft carrier.

Under the Constitution, the government has maintained that it cannot possess “attack aircraft carriers,” as they are among what can be deemed offensive weapons exceeding what is necessary for self-defense. Japan currently has flat-topped destroyers that carry helicopters, but not fighter aircraft.

Former Defense Minister Gen Nakatani, who heads an LDP panel discussing security issues, and others explained the proposals to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Thursday.

Amid the fragile security environment in the region, the government has decided to review the 2013 defense guidelines, which set the target for defense capabilities Japan should achieve over the next decade.

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