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Japan’s ruling party calls for ‘counterstrike capabilities’

  • April 27, 2022
  • , Nikkei Asia , 2:29 a.m.
  • English Press

TOKYO — Lawmakers from Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party have urged the government to develop “counterstrike capabilities” and consider roughly doubling the defense budget to 2% or more of gross domestic product under new policy recommendations finalized Tuesday.


The document will be presented to Prime Minister Fumio Kishida as early as Wednesday. The LDP aims to see the recommendations reflected in Japan’s updated National Security Strategy and other security documents by the end of the year.


There has been a growing debate in Japan regarding the development of the ability to strike enemy bases. In a policy speech in January, Kishida referred to the idea as “so-called enemy base attack capability.”


The LDP recommended that the government use the term “counterstrike capabilities” instead to differentiate the concept from preemptive-strike capabilities.


Japan’s missile defense strategy so far has focused on intercepting enemy strikes. But with countries like China and North Korea developing hypersonic and trajectory-shifting missiles, “interceptors alone may not be enough to defend Japan,” the LDP said in the document. Lawmakers hope that developing counterstrike capabilities will serve as a deterrent against future attacks.


The LDP recommended that potential counterstrikes target not only enemy bases, but also their “command and control” functions. This could cover command centers responsible for ordering missile attacks, and would expand Japan’s options for retaliating against mobile- and submarine-launched missiles.


Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has fueled greater concern in Japan over the potential for an enemy attack, which was a main driver behind the new LDP recommendations. The document urges the government to take a flexible approach on what it means to possess “minimum self-defense capability,” in line with Japan’s war-renouncing constitution, “based on current affairs, technologies and other factors at the time.”


In terms of defense spending, the LDP called for an increase “to a level necessary to fundamentally strengthen Japan’s defensive capabilities within five years.” It urged the government to aim for a budget equivalent to 2% or more of Japan’s GDP, roughly double the fiscal 2022 figure of just under 1%.


The five-year window likely is a response to speculation that China will attempt to unify Taiwan by force by 2027.


The LDP called on the government to reevaluate its Three Principles on Transfer of Defense Equipment and Technology, which currently bans arms exports to countries that are “party to a conflict.” It urged consideration for a mechanism that allows a wide range of transfers to countries suffering an invasion that violates international law, such as Ukraine.


In response to Russian attacks on Ukrainian nuclear power plants, the LDP recommended the creation of a new legal framework that allows the Self-Defense Forces to guard Japanese nuclear plants. It urged the government to build underground shelters and other facilities to protect citizens from a nuclear attack.

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