For defense officials in Tokyo, it is time to revisit the National Security Strategy (NSS). Following the monumental decision to cancel the deployment of the Aegis Ashore ballistic missile defense system in June, the central debate consuming Japanese security thinking is straddling between missile defense and strike capability, or what is called “enemy base strike.” The National Security Council (NSC) has its work cut out in the coming months: find Japan an alternative to Aegis Ashore, while balancing technological precision and budgetary concerns in the post-COVID-19 economy.

Cancelling the Aegis Ashore system, which was one of the key pillars of the National Defense Program Guidelines and Mid-Term Defense Program, should not create a gap in Japan’s defenses. Thus, the NSC is engaging in a much larger discussion this summer on how to reinforce deterrence and hammer out a new direction in the NSS.

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