National

Cybersecurity and threats from space targeted in Japan’s draft of new defense guidelines

Kyodo

The government on Tuesday called for quickly beefing up defenses against cyberattacks and threats from outer space as it unveiled a draft outline of the national defense buildup guidelines, to be updated next month.

The government said in the draft that the security situation surrounding Japan has been increasing in severity amid North Korean threats and China’s maritime assertiveness, while adding that a stronger Japan-U.S. alliance is “more important than before.”

“We must strengthen our defense abilities in a speed that is different from before,” the government said in the document, while noting there is a need to invest in such areas as artificial intelligence and laser technologies, which are becoming military game changers.

The government plans to endorse the revised version of the National Defense Program Guidelines at a Cabinet meeting to be held Dec. 18, according to government sources.

The document, which is intended to set defense capability targets over the period of a decade, was last approved in 2013. But in August last year, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told the Defense Ministry to update the policy in the face of North Korea’s rapidly advancing nuclear and missile development programs.

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party has urged the government to develop the ability to strike enemy missile bases, a controversial move for Japan in light of its war-renouncing Constitution. But Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya said at a news conference Tuesday, the issue will not be included in the revised guidelines.

In the draft guidelines, the government said space and cyberspace, which are viewed as the newest domains of warfare, are areas to prioritize in terms of budget allocation.

It also hopes to strengthen, with the help of the U.S., the monitoring of orbiting space debris left over from previous rocket and satellite launches. In addition, it plans to increase the number of personnel of the Defense Ministry’s Cyber Defense Group.

With the number of applicants seeking to enter the Self-Defense Forces falling due to the decline in the population and the graying society, the government said it will broaden the demographics from which it recruits, such as by raising the ages limits and utilizing more female officers. It is also looking at raising the retirement age.

The draft was shown at a meeting of a panel that is discussing the issue.

Based on the guidelines, the Defense Ministry plans to lay down a new five-year spending and procurement plan by the end of the year.