The government will drop its plan to reach a conclusion by the end of the year on whether Japan should acquire the capability to strike enemy bases, including missile launch sites, it was learned Tuesday.
With a House of Representatives election due within a year, the Liberal Democratic Party-led government plans to place emphasis on electoral cooperation between the LDP and Komeito, the junior ruling coalition partner, which is cautious about Japan holding the strike capability, government and ruling coalition sources said.
In a statement issued before his resignation in September, then Prime Minister Shinzo Abe suggested that the government would outline its policy on the strike capability after talks with the ruling parties.
In view of the improvement of North Korea’s nuclear and missile capacity, Abe questioned Japan’s current defense system that relies solely on missile interception, and stressed the need for strengthening deterrence.
Reflecting Abe’s stance, the Defense Ministry and the National Security Secretariat are looking at the possibility of revising the government position that Japan will never possess equipment aimed at attacking enemy bases.
But there are no prospects for the start of discussions between the government and the ruling coalition, as Komeito, known for its pacifist inclinations, is adamantly cautious about such debate. One party executive said, “We can’t discuss it before the election.”
At a news conference on Oct. 27, Komeito chief Natsuo Yamaguchi said the government had until last year taken a negative stance toward having the capability to strike enemy bases.
An aide to Prime Minister and LDP President Yoshihide Suga said the government has no choice but to pay due heed to Komeito before the Lower House election.
Calls for discussions have not gathered momentum partly because the number of missile launches by North Korea has decreased. One government official said, “The people’s sense of crisis has receded.”
In his parliamentary policy speech last month, Suga said the government would promote debate in line with Abe’s statement but stopped short of clarifying when to draw a conclusion.
As Suga has pledged to maintain the policies of the Abe government, however, he cannot disregard Abe’s statement. Some in the government said that Suga will show at least a direction on the issue by the end of the year.
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