Pacifist Japan took a step closer to acquiring weapons able to strike North Korea on Friday after a ruling party committee approved proposals to consider acquiring strike capability to halt ballistic missile attacks.
Pedestrians watch the news on a huge screen displaying a map of Japan (R) and the Korean Peninsula, in Tokyo on August 29, 2017, following a North Korean missile test that passed over Japan. (AFP)
The recommendations will be discussed by Japan’s National Security Council, which is expected to finalize new defense policies by the end of September.
Abe has pushed for a more muscular military, arguing Japan needs to respond to a deteriorating security environment in East Asia as North Korea builds missiles and nuclear weapons, China builds a modern, powerful military and Russian forces re-engage in the region.
A strike option is attractive because it is much easier to hit missiles on launch pads than warheads travelling at several times the speed of sound. Finding mobile launchers to hit, however, require close surveillance with satellites that Japan does not currently possess, meaning it would have to rely on help from ally the United States.
Japan’s defense ministry could decide on equipment purchases by the end of the year, government officials told Reuters.
“We will look at the LDP recommendations and consider them thoroughly,” Minister of Defense Taro Kono said at a regular press briefing.
Aegis defense radar system
The ruling party deliberations were prompted by Kono’s decision in June to cancel two planned Aegis Ashore sites designed to track and target incoming ballistic missiles from North Korea, citing a risk posed to nearby residents from falling booster rockets and rising costs.
The LDP document included a recommendation that Japan consider how to acquire a defense radar system on a par with Lockheed Martin’s Aegis Ashore system that could also track other threats such as drones and cruise missiles.