The Research Commission on Security of Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) compiled a draft proposal calling for the government to bolster Japan’s capability to counter the North Korean nuclear and missile programs. The proposal asked the government to introduce early warning satellites and acquire the capability to attack enemy bases, about which the government has been cautious due to the separate roles that Tokyo and Washington play under the Japan-U.S. Security Agreements. The proposal is partly a political message to demonstrate a tough stance toward North Korea, which continues to take provocative actions by firing ballistic missiles. But there is no denying that the proposal was hastily drawn up as it fails to take into consideration the balance of Japan’s entire defense capability and discussions on the pros and cons of increasing defense spending.
Senior members of the Research Commission on Security held a meeting at the LDP headquarters on May 31. The participants listened to lawmakers explaining early warning functions and cyber defense, and exchanged opinions. Defense Minister Tomomi Inada also attended the meeting and said, “Thank you for your valuable opinions.”
Japan’s ballistic missile defense system has two layers. The first is the Maritime Self-Defense Force’s Aegis destroyers, which are equipped with Standard Missile-3 interceptor missiles that can stop enemy projectiles in the outer atmosphere. If those fail, the Air Self-Defense Force’s Patriot Advanced Capability-3 surface-to-air guided interceptor missiles are the next line of defense.
North Korea has been launching missiles repeatedly. On May 14, the reclusive nation showed off its improved missile technology by launching a missile on a “lofted” trajectory, reaching an altitude of more than 2,000 km and making it difficult to intercept. The Japanese government is considering introducing Aegis Ashore, a land-based version of the missile defense system used at sea. But there is growing discontent within the LDP that ballistic missile defense will not be enough to defend Japan against North Korea’s provocations. The proposal included acquiring the capability to attack enemy bases with cruise missiles after sustaining an attack in order to assuage such discontent. (Abridged)