RIEKO MIKI, Nikkei staff writer
TOKYO — Japan’s government kicked off discussions Wednesday on revising its security strategy to extend cooperation with the U.S. to new areas like space and cybersecurity as the allies look to counter growing threats in the Indo-Pacific region.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has called for an overhaul of the National Security Strategy, which forms the basis of Japan’s foreign and defense policies, for the first time.
This will take place in conjunction with revisions to the country’s two most important defense documents — the National Defense Program Guidelines and the Medium-Term Defense Program — by the end of this year, ahead of schedule.
As the Biden administration conducts its own strategic review, Tokyo looks to align closer with Washington in a security environment that faces a growing military threat from China, including Beijing’s saber-rattling with Taiwan as well as its maritime expansion in the Indo-Pacific region.
Wednesday marked the first of a series of expert panel hearings that will last until fall and cover a broad range of topics with security implications, including artificial intelligence, quantum technology and climate change.
The process follows the “2-plus-2” meeting of Japanese and American diplomatic and defense chiefs on Jan. 7. The participants said in a joint statement that “the United States and Japan resolved to ensure alignment of alliance visions and priorities through key forthcoming national security strategy documents.”
China and Russia are building up military capabilities in cyberspace and in outer space. Military planners are embracing the concept of “cross-domain operations,” which combine conventional warfare with new technology, such as cyberattacks and electromagnetic pulse attacks.
Responding to cyberattacks in particular will feature in the strategic review. Attacks on computer systems have multiplied 8.5 times between 2015 and 2020, according to Japan’s National Institute of Information and Communications Technology.
Japan lacks cyberdefense specialists and lags behind Western peers in that field. Tokyo will seek to improve its counteroffensive capabilities through joint exercises with the U.S.
In space, Japan will take such steps as working with the U.S.’s satellite program to deepen cooperation with allies.
Economic security, which had never been part of Japan’s strategy, has also become a crucial plank. The revised strategy will bolster the supply chain and safeguard advanced dual-use technology. Approaches that take China into account will be put on the table.
Japan is weighing its need for base strike capabilities that could take out missile sites in enemy territory. North Korea’s advancing nuclear and ballistic missile programs are one motivation for these considerations.
Japan’s missile defense capabilities are limited to monitoring and interception. As things stand, Japan would rely entirely on the U.S. to strike enemy locations in the event Japan sustains an attack.
“The U.S. clearly perceives Chinese missiles as a threat,” said Michito Tsuruoka, an associate professor of policy management at Keio University in Tokyo. “Japan needs to be on the same page with the U.S. by revising its National Security Strategy.”