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Japan eyes introduction of cruise missiles amid N. Korea threat

  • May 6, 2017
  • , Kyodo News , 3:06 a.m.
  • English Press

Japan has started contemplating future deployment of cruise missiles in response to North Korea’s repeated ballistic missile launches and nuclear tests, a government official said Friday.


The government is eager to set aside spending to study the potential acquisition of a capability to strike enemy launch sites, possibly in a draft state budget for fiscal 2018, the official told Kyodo News, speaking on condition of anonymity.


However, there are concerns within the government and ruling parties that adoption of strike capability would run contrary to Japan’s exclusively defense-oriented posture and trigger a backlash from opposition parties.


According to the official, the envisaged type of missile is the Tomahawk cruise missile, which was used in a U.S. strike on an airfield in Syria in April.


The Tomahawk is a long-range, all-weather, subsonic cruise missile. It would have enough range to hit any part of North Korea from the Sea of Japan, flying at extremely low altitudes and thus making it less noticeable to radar.


The government is considering deploying Tomahawks on the Maritime Self-Defense Force’s Aegis-equipped vessels, the official said. If they are actually introduced, the ships will also need renovation to carry them.


The United States, which is Japan’s key security ally but was cautious about Tokyo possessing cruise missiles, has moderated its stance in parallel with the heightened tensions on the Korean Peninsula, according to a Defense Ministry source.


To bring the adoption of strike capability to fruition, the government would need to advance the date of revising the 10-year defense program guidelines and review the five-year defense buildup plan, both approved by the Cabinet in late 2013.


A panel on security issues in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party is expected to put forward recommendations later this month on how to improve Japan’s defense capabilities with an eye on assisting the government to explore a strike capability option.


In a parliamentary committee meeting on Jan. 26, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said it would fall under the category of self-defense allowed under the war-renouncing Constitution should Japan move to strike enemy launch sites when no alternative is in sight, thereby expressing his belief that the possession of strike capability would pose no problem.

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