Tokyo, Sept. 17 (Jiji Press)–The administration of new Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga faces the urgent task of drawing up new missile defense measures to replace the abandoned plan to deploy Aegis Ashore land-based missile interceptors.
In June, Japan decided to scrap the planned deployment of Aegis Ashore, but it has not come up with an alternative defense strategy yet.
Discussions in the ruling bloc on aggressive missile defense measures, including the possible acquisition of enemy base attack capability, are expected to run into rough waters.
Japan is considering several options for alternatives to the Aegis Ashore system, including construction of new destroyers specializing in missile defense. But such plans are not attractive enough, from technical and cost standpoints, for the government to make a prompt decision to introduce them.
With North Korea accelerating efforts to improve its nuclear and missile technologies, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and its junior coalition partner, Komeito, need to hammer out a new missile defense system in time for the year-end compilation of the state budget for fiscal 2021, which starts in April.
In a statement released this month before his resignation, former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe suggested that the government look at possessing the capability to deter possible missile attacks and called on the new administration to come up with a conclusion on that issue by the end of the year.
Meanwhile, Komeito is cautious about holding such capability, due to concerns that it may conflict with Japan’s defense-only security policy.
Bilateral talks on Japan’s host-nation financial support for U.S. forces stationed in the country are expected to start in earnest following the Nov. 3 U.S. presidential election.
Many believe that U.S. President Donald Trump, if re-elected, is likely to urge Japan to drastically increase that support.
The Suga administration also faces the challenge of facilitating the relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps’ Futenma air station within the southernmost Japan prefecture of Okinawa amid persistent local opposition.
Under a Japan-U.S. agreement, the government plans to transfer the Futenma base, located in a densely populated area in Ginowan, to the Henoko coastal area in Nago, but the Okinawa prefectural government and locals have been calling for the base to be removed from Okinawa altogether.
Another serious security concern for the government is Chinese military activities in the East China Sea. Former Defense Minister Taro Kono has called such activities a “threat” to Japan.
The government is considering revisions to its national security strategy, drawn up in 2013, to clarify this recognition, informed sources said.
The government will also continue its efforts to strengthen the Self-Defense Forces, which may prompt China to increase its vigilance against Japan as new Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi has strong ties with Taiwan.
Additionally, the government needs to boost efforts to deal with new threats in such fields as space and cyberspace, while keeping a close eye on weapons development by China and Russia.