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SECURITY > Self-Defense Forces

Japan to rely on standoff missiles to enhance deterrence capability

  • December 19, 2020
  • , Yomiuri , p. 4
  • JMH Translation

The government included a plan to domestically develop “standoff missiles” in the Dec. 18 Cabinet decision regarding Japan’s new missile defense system. Standoff missiles are long-range missiles able to attack targets from outside the ranges of enemy missiles. The move is aimed at strengthening Japan’s deterrence capability by possessing more equipment, as the government has found it difficult to persuade the country to acquire the capability to attack enemy bases.


During a press conference that day, Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi said the government will develop new standoff missiles with an eye to defending the Nansei Islands, including Okinawa’s Senkaku Islands. China has repeatedly taken provocative actions in the waters near the islands. “I think the equipment is necessary for the defense of the islands in the Nansei region,” Kishi said. He also underscored that the development of the missiles and discussions on the possession of the capability to strike enemy bases “need to be advanced separately.”


Multiple senior government officials admit, however, that “standoff missiles and the capability to attack enemy bases are closely related.”


The new missiles, which will be developed based on the “Type 12 surface-to-ship missile,” have a range of roughly 1,000 kilometers and will be mounted on warships and fighter jets. The missiles can cover the entire area of North Korea as well as Shanghai and other Chinese coastal areas.


Currently Japan does not have the capability to detect transporter erector launchers (TEL) and other targets. But the country is said to have the ability to strike fixed targets that have already been identified. The possibility of Japan carrying out missile counterattacks by itself will make it difficult for other countries to invade the Nansei Islands and other Japanese territories.


China has already been growing wary and is said to have unofficially conveyed its concern to the Japanese government. A senior [Japanese] government official points out, “[The missile plan] has already proved itself to be effective.”


Discussions on the possession of the capability to strike enemy bases, an issue on which public opinion is divided, are expected to be shelved for the time being ahead of a Lower House election. A Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) lawmaker closely related to the defense ministry says: “Another North Korean missile launch into Japanese territorial waters may tip public opinion [toward favoring the possession of the capability]. Until then, we have no choice but to develop missiles in a levelheaded manner.” 

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