The Japanese government has begun discussions towards a review of its security strategy. The focus will be on whether to allow the possession of the “capability to attack enemy bases,” such as missile bases. Japan should not deviate from the post-World War II policy of maintaining exclusively defense-oriented capabilities.
The review of security policy follows the withdrawal of the Aegis Ashore deployment plan. The issue will be how to fill a “void” in the defense against ballistic missiles caused by the withdrawal. The possession of capabilities to attack enemy bases has emerged as an option.
There are no objections to the government’s protecting the citizens from threat of ballistic missiles. It is natural for the government to respond to such threats.
An exclusively defense-oriented policy, however, has been Japan’s national strategy since World War II. Japan has gained high esteem and respect in the international community through its development into a peaceful nation rather than a military nation that threatens other countries. The National Security Strategy (NSS) formulated under the Abe administration admits this fact also.
Would not the possession of capabilities to attack enemy bases run counter to the development of a peaceful nation, and deviate from the exclusively defense-oriented policy?
Past administrations have allowed that in case Japan came under missile attack, the attack of enemy bases is within the scope of self-defense in Article Nine of the Constitution, saying that “the constitution does not say we should just sit and wait to be destroyed.”
It is not the case, however, that past administrations have allowed a weapons buildup towards possession of capabilities to attack enemy bases. The government’s position was that it would be “contrary to constitutional intent to possess weapons that threaten attack and may be used to attack other countries.”
The Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) proposed to the Abe administration three years ago the possession of capabilities to attack enemy bases. The proposal was not adopted. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, however, has always had a positive attitude toward reinforcing the SDF’s strike capabilities.
Should Japan be allowed to possess capabilities to attack enemy bases that deviate from the constitution, seizing the moment when the land-based Aegis plan was cancelled due to its lack of “military logic?”
The SDF originally has weapons systems for exclusive self-defense. To have new capabilities to attack enemy bases, the SDF must acquire long-distance cruise missiles and stealth fighters, and enhance its information collection operations. Acquiring all of these will cause the defense budget to grow. The Japan-U.S. security framework, in which the U.S. was responsible for offensive power, would be pressed to change.
The Abe administration will decide on the course of discussion by the end of September 2020 and revise the NSS by the end of 2020. It is to be hoped that discussions will proceed with caution so that Japan will not fall into the “security dilemma” of initiating an arms race and upsetting the balance of regional security.