Outgoing Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will set the policy direction on whether to acquire strike capability against missile bases in other countries, government sources said Monday.
Abe, who abruptly announced his resignation Friday, will also hammer out an alternative plan for the costly land-based, U.S.-developed Aegis Ashore system, according to the sources. The planned deployment of the system, aimed at protecting the country from the North Korean missile threat, was scrapped by the government in June.
Abe has informed executives of his ruling Liberal Democratic Party of his decision and is likely to map out a new security policy during a National Security Council meeting, possibly in the first half of September, before the next head of the LDP is selected, the sources said.
The proposal has stirred controversy in light of the country's war-renouncing pacifist Constitution, as well as its exclusively defense-oriented policy, and is strongly opposed by Komeito, the LDP's junior coalition partner.
The government started full-fledged discussions in August on ways to counter ballistic missiles after receiving a proposal from a group of LDP lawmakers calling for the strike capability to be considered.
Regarding the new security policy, Abe said in the news conference at which he announced his resignation, "We will swiftly enter into coordination with the ruling parties and work on its materialization."
Around Aug. 24, when he had decided to resign, Abe told Komeito executives, "I want to compile a plan within the remainder of my term," and he urged them to hasten intraparty discussions, according to people close to him.
In line with the LDP proposal, a plan is being floated that calls for "possession of the ability to intercept ballistic missiles and others even in the territory of an enemy," stating that "specific equipment will be decided by the end of this year."
The National Defense Program Guidelines as well as the medium-term defense program are scheduled to be slightly revised by the end of this year under the new prime minister, while the revision of the National Security Strategy has been postponed to next year, according to the sources.
Among the alternatives being discussed for Aegis Ashore are the introduction of an interception system that would detect an incoming missile with high-grade radar on the ground and shoot it down with missiles launched from a sea-based platform, and simply building more Aegis destroyers equipped with missile interceptors.
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